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General | General | 12/27/2021

Year in review: PG events

Jeff Dahn     
Photo: PGAAC celebration, Druw Jones (Perfect Game)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Tens of thousands of would-be top prospects participated in thousands of Perfect Game events in what was a record-breaking calendar year for PG in 2021. Looking at just the older groups in the 14u through 18u age divisions provided the extensive PG scouting department – and the national scouting community as a whole – with ample opportunities to evaluate players who one day will be the backbones of MLB rosters in both the American and National leagues.

What follows is brief recap of some of the more noteworthy highlights from many of PG’s signature events during what was a long and fruitful 2021 campaign season,

National champions crowned at WWBA, BCS, World Series and National Elite tournaments

The wealth was spread fairly evenly with teams from nine states taking home championship gold at these four premier PG National Championship events. WWBA tournaments were held at the Top Chops East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Ga., BCS tourneys were held primarily in Fort Myers, Fla., World Series championships were held in Florida, Alabama and Arizona, and Hoover, Ala., served as host for the five National Elite events; Texas-based USA Prime National won three of the five National Elite Championships (17u, 15u, 14u).

WWBA Champions – 18u: US Nationals (Missouri); 17u: East Cobb Astros 17u; 16u: Team Elite 16u Scout Team (Georgia); 15u: USA Prime National (Texas); 14u: Texas 12 14u Black.

BCS Champions – 18u: Florida Legends (Florida); 17u: Dallas Patriots 17u Scout (Texas)/East Coast Lumberjacks 2022s (New York); 16u: Ostingers Baseball Academy 2023 (Florida); 15u: US Elite GA (Georgia)/eXposure 15u Prime-Church (Tennessee); 14u: TBT Ballers National.

World Series Champions – 17u: So Cal Giants (California); 16u: Canes National 16u (Virginia); 15u: Power Baseball 2024 Platinum (Florida); 14u: Canes National 14u (Virginia).

National Elite Champions – 18u: East Coast Sox (Mississippi); 17u: USA Prime National 17u (Texas); 16u: Top Tier Roos American 2023; 15u: USA Prime National 15u (Texas); 14u: USA Prime National 14u (Texas).

Canes National claim final No. 1 ranking in 17u, 15u divisions, No. 2 in 14u

The powerful Virginia-based Canes Baseball program locked down the No. 1 ranking in the both the 17u and 15u age divisions and were No. 2 at the 14u level in the final PG National Travel Team Rankings released earlier this month.

The Canes National/NY Mets Scout Team earned the top ranking in 17u after winning the title at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship and the PG 16u World Series and were also the co-champs at the PG/BA Ultimate Baseball Challenge (UBC); they compiled an overall record of 29-3-2.

The No. 1 Canes National 15u were equally as impressive, finishing with a combined record of 34-2-1 while claiming championships at the PG 14u World Series and the 14u UBC and reaching the final four at the WWBA 14u National Championship.

Texas-based USA Prime baseball finished in the No. 1 position in both the 16u and 14u national rankings after impressive summers at both levels. The Prime’s 14u team won titles at the PG National Elite Championship and the WWBA 14u World Championship.

The East Cobb Baseball/Padres Scout Team completed one of the most dominant seasons in PG history finishing 45-5-2 while making deep playoff runs and finished No. 1 in the 18u division.

Canes 17u wins WWBA Under World; 3 other World champs crowned

The Virginia-based Canes National 17u turned in a stellar all-around performance and clipped the South Charlotte Panthers 2023 out of North Carolina, 6-1, to win the championship at the WWBA Underclass World Championship played at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla.

This was a particularly dominating championship run for the Canes National 17u once all the final numbers were tabulated: They outscored their nine quality opponents by a dizzying 59-5 final count.

Kevin McGonigle, an Auburn commit from Pennsylvania ranked No. 33 overall nationally, finished the tournament 11-for-25 (.440) with three doubles, a triple, eight RBI, seven runs scored and five stolen bases; he was named the MVP.

“I joined (the Canes) three tournaments ago so I’m new to this team and when I joined I knew it was the right spot for me,” McGonigle said. “It’s like a family and we know how to win ballgames so it’s a great experience with this team.”

The South Charlotte Panthers 2023 right-hander Chance Mako, an N.C. State commit ranked No. 49 nationally, was named the MV Pitcher. In one appearance, Mako threw a six inning no-hitter, striking out 16 without a walk.

“We were able to get that one big inning and that kind of gave us some separation,” Canes National 17u head coach Brian Hucks said. “I felt like that we did a good a job of throwing strikes and making the routine plays and making them earn everything they got. Just an incredible run by this group of young men, and like I said (winning) nine games in four days is just amazing. …

“These kids are really, truly happy for others’ success and they want to be part of this program. I couldn’t be any prouder as a coach to coach these quality young me.”

Top Tier Roos American 2023 (Florida) captured the crown at the WWBA Sophomore World Championship; Alpha Prime 2025 (California) was the champion at the WWBA Freshman World Championship; and USA Prime National (Texas) won it all at the WWBA 14u World.

Ostingers BA 2022 takes home program’s 1st Jupiter title

Arjun Nimmala delivered a two-out run-scoring single in the bottom of the eighth inning to lead Florida’s Ostingers Baseball Academy to a 2-1 victory over North Carolina’s Dirtbags Scout Team in the championship game at the PG WWBA World championship played in Jupiter, Fla. The walk-off win came in the 23rd inning that Ostingers had played on Championship Day at the Roger Dean Complex.

“I had in my mind that it was time,” Nimmala told PG postgame when asked about the game-winning hit. “Everyone dreams of that same moment and luckily I saw a curveball out of (the pitcher’s) hand and I came through for the team. That’s not my accomplishment, that’s the team’s accomplishment for all the hard work and for all that we did to get to this point.”

It was the type of championship game not often seen in Jupiter in that it was a pitcher’s battle from start to finish. That’s unusual because teams that are playing their eighth game in four day  – and on Monday their fourth game in about eight hours – are generally running out of quality pitching.

“It kind of goes without saying that this event is the biggest of the year, and I’m just really, really happy for these guys,” an emotional Jim Osting, the program founder and this team’s head coach, said postgame. “We teach winning, we teach how to play the game the right way and we went about it the right way this week and finished on top.

“It’s a testament to the program and what the guys that have been there before us have done. They laid the ground-work and these guys are kind of coming through and reaping the rewards but also leaving the program in a better place.”

What was truly amazing was the pace at which these guys worked. The first three innings were in the books after 30 minutes and the first five took just over an hour. Had the game ended in the regulation seven innings, it would have been a 1 hour, 40-minute affair.

OBA’s Marek Houston, a Wake Forest commit, was named the MVP. He finished 9-for-20 (.450) with seven singles, two doubles, two RBI, four runs scored and two stolen bases for just a solid all-around performance on a monster platform.

“This is very special,” Houston said. “I joined this team last fall and I really (developed) a close bond. I hang out with these guys and I talk to these guys all the time. I even play (against) them in high school, so it’s pretty cool coming out here and winning this with these guys.”

Dirtbags left-hander Ethan Walker was named the co-MV Pitcher. Walker worked eight innings over two appearances, allowed two earned runs (1.80 ERA) on eight hits and struck-out 11 while walking three.

Walker shared the award with Richmond Braves 18u Platinum’s Levi Huesman because what Huesman did was likely the story of the tournament. A Coastal Carolina commit ranked No. 82 nationally, Huesman threw seven two-hit, shutout innings, striking out 17 against no walks.

Junior National prospects shine on fields at Top Chops East Cobb Complex

Right in the neighborhood of 300 top underclass prospects from the prep classes of 2023 and 2024 (with a handful of 2025s) turned out at PG’s East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Ga., for the PG Junior National Showcase and proceeded to turn in dazzling performance after dazzling performance, four of which broke event records.

“It was awesome hanging around all these really great players,” Tampa 2023 left-hander/outfielder and Vanderbilt commit Wesley Mendes told PG on the final day of the event’s five-day run in June. “Seeing them everywhere and just soaking in what they know; just getting to learn from the best.”

The record-breaking performances were turned in by 2023 Alabama primary third baseman and Crimson Tide commit Walter Ford, who delivered a 97 mph fastball from the mound; 2023 Nebraska outfielder Cole Eaton (Tennessee) threw 98 mph from the outfield; ’23 catcher Colton Wombles (Auburn) matched the event’s all-time best with a 1.75-second pop time (he also threw out three would-be base-stealers in one game); the aforementioned Mendes threw 94 mph from first base (he was also 95 mph from the outfield), and Florida shortstop Jorge Gonzalez Febo (uncommitted) delivered an eye-popping 101 mph throw across the infield.

“The talent is rich and the talent is spread out throughout the country, for sure,” PG National Crosschecker Jheremy Brown said. “With Wombles...that’s no fluke. He’s a high-energy kid and another (14u Select) Festival kid that plays like his hair’s on fire and he’ll run through a brick wall for you if he has to and had three on-the-money throws right to the bag.”

Many of the class of 2023's usual standouts were on hand and they did what stars tend to do: they stood out. They included top guns like Cam Collier, Drew Burress, Riley Jackson, Maxwell Clark and Dean West.

Not long after the conclusion of the Jr. National, Collier reclassified as a 2022, entered the PG National Showcase a couple of weeks later and ultimately earned an invitation to the PG All-American Classic.

Cam Collier did Cam Collier things,” Brown said. “He took a really professional round of BP...and he’s an A-plus kid. He’s another one we’re going to get to watch come through the entire ranks, and the best is yet to come for Cam.”

Several younger guys, the 2024s, also stood out, including third basemen George Wolkow (South Carolina) from Illinois and Samuel Richardson (uncommitted) out of Mississippi. But this was really the showcase for the top 2023s to strut their formidable stuff.

“There are a lot of great players, for sure, just stacked all the way up and down,” Mendes said of the class of 2023. “It’s just legit the whole way...and these players, they’re always into the game; it’s easy to play with them. You’re playing against here and it’s obviously a great way to start off your summer.”

PG National returns to The Trop and doesn’t disappoint

Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, once again served as the host for the PG National Showcase and the performances under The Trop’s roof always prove to be memorable.

The roughly 320 top prospects from the class of 2022 could all leave The Trop feeling good about themselves. First, for receiving the National invitation in the first place and, finally, knowing they had left a lasting impression as a class bursting at the seams with talent.

“Coming in here, we really looked at this class as one that is unique because of the athletes in it. That (showed) through the run times, the velocities and the shear athletic talent that we saw all week,” PG National Scouting Director Jered Goodwin said at event’s conclusion.

“Typically we talk about how some need more development than others but it’s not that way with this class. It’s a pretty polished group for how athletic they are.”

That athleticism did come to the fore in the 60-yard dash times, with 15 runners covering the distance in 6.31 seconds or faster. They were all chasing North Carolina speedster Michael Gupton, however, who set an all-time PG event record when he crossed in a mind-blowing 5.96 seconds.

Nevada’s Justin Crawford (6.11), Georgia’s Elgin Bennett (6.14), Florida’s Elijah Green (6.16) and California’s Austin Overn (6.19) were mercury-quick themselves but it’s difficult to catch up to a sub-6.0.

The three separate, four-team workout sessions did produce one other event record. Georgia primary shortstop Jay Knowles (Indiana State) threw 100 mph from the outfield, just a tick better than the 99 mph bullet from Arkansas’s Cooper Dossett, which matched the previous event-best.

Everyone kind of knew that Georgia catcher Jared Jones (LSU) was going to come out and hit and lo-and-behold the kid came out and hit. It was the same thing with highly-regarded pitchers like the left-handers Jackson Ferris (Ole Miss) and Tristan Smith (Clemson).

Many of the projection guys, players PG scouts knew were good coming in, also seemed to make a jump. As an example, Goodwin mentioned Texas right-hander Chase Shores (Oklahoma State), who showed a nice bump in velocity. It was something the scouts kind of expected to happen at some point and it was just nice to see it on this stage.

And there were a handful of guys outside of the top-200 or so that turned out to be attention-grabbers, and no one fit that bill better than Austin Henry, a tall right-hander out of South Dakota.

“I think that showed some of the work that these kids have put in, whether that be over the course of the calendar year since last year’s Junior National or this summer, being able to home in what they need to develop and certainly have done it,” Goodwin said.

So what about that sub-6 second 60? “We have gotten plus and double-plus run times to first base on Michael Gupton for two years,” Goodwin said. “To see that – he did it on turf, he did it on a big stage, the adrenaline’s going – I’m still shocked to be very honest.

“But this is a guy that if he wanted to go the Olympic route and put all his marbles in that bag there’s certainly a chance we could see him out there (at the Olympics) in four years.”

East no-hits West at Classic; Luke Heyman named MVP

It was the last thing anyone in attendance at the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park or watching live on the MLB Network expected to witness but there it was, front-and-center for the entire world of amateur baseball to see: 10 pitchers for the East Squad combining on a no-hitter at the PG All-American Classic.

Those pitching performances combined with some great at-bats and timely hitting led the East to a 9-1 victory, an outcome that broke the West’s five-game winning streak at the event and represented only the East’s second win in the last 10 Classics.

“We had good performances all-around,” East manager Clint Hurdle said at game’s end. “We played good defense, we got good at-bats when we needed them and that’s a recipe for success. And on the mound we were strong. We had some skilled guys pitching all night long.”

The East pitching staff received no-hit innings from such 2022 stalwarts such as Dylan Lesko, Jackson Ferris, Tristan Smith, Brandon Barriera, Caden Dana and Nazier Mule, among others. Mule inserted himself into the PGAAC record books by delivering the first 100 mph fastball in the sixth inning. Jurrangelo Cijntje also made history by becoming the first both-handed pitcher to appear in the Classic, and he threw from both sides in a hitless seventh.

The East’s Luke Heyman,  a catcher/corner infielder and a Florida signee out of Longwood, Fla., hit a two-run home run in the third inning for the East squad, and was named the MVP. He admitted he might have been the only player in the East dugout to bring up the no-hitter when the game was still being played.

“Nobody was really talking about it; they didn’t want to jinx anything,” Heyman said. “I mentioned it without thinking but then I didn’t say another thing about it. There was no real emotion, just normal conversation; nothing about the no-hitter.”

He did show some emotion at game’s end, however:

“It’s been an amazing experience. Being able to be here with the best players in the country and playing in a beautiful stadium is just something that I’ve dreamed (about) for a while. I’m blessed and excited that I’ve been able to live this experience; it’s going to one that I’ll remember forever.”

Elijah Green earns Jackie Robinson POY Award; Dylan Lesko top fund-raiser

Elijah Green, an elite athlete and a Miami commit out of Windermere, Fla., was named the recipient of the 2021 Jackie Robinson Award, an honor bestowed annually upon the Perfect Game High School Player of the Year.

“It means everything to me,” Green said the morning after the annual PGAAC Awards Banquet. “With Jackie being the first African American player in MLB, it was just great to get the award and know that all my grind and hard work has finally paid off.”

Green was also a football player early in his athletic career and is built like one at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds to go with sprinter’s speed. During the course of his PG career he earned all-tournament recognition at more than 20 events, mostly while playing for the FTB organization, and was included on the Top Prospect List at three PG showcases, including the 2020 PG Junior National and the 2021 PG National.

“Perfect Game, I just love them,” Green said. “I just love how (the events) are run, and I just want to show out and show that I can be a leader of my team and go out and win tournaments.”

Top Georgia right-hander Dylan Lesko, the highest ranked pitcher in the 2022 class, really outdid himself outside the lines as well by collecting a whopping $20,325 during PG Cares fundraising efforts to benefit Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego and its Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

“Back at home in Buford (Ga.) our whole baseball team gets involved with the community and tries to help the less fortunate as much as we can,” Lesko said. “Having any opportunity to give back is one of my favorite (things). Just trying to put a smile on somebody else’s face, because that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”

Here is the complete list of the 2021 PG All-American Classic award winners as announced at the Awards Banquet at the Bayfront Hilton Hotel:

Top Chops Top Fundraiser: Dylan Lesko (Georgia)

Texas Baseball Ranch Top Pitcher Improvement Award: Jackson Ferris (North Carolina)

Yeti Cool Under Pressure Award: Brock Porter (Michigan)

Oakley Be Who You Are Award: Tristan Smith (South Carolina)

Leaf Most Projectable Award: Justin Crawford (Nevada)

PG Tech Power Award: Dominic Hellman (Washington)

Win Reality Top Performer Award: Jayson Jones (Texas)

Baseball America Pitcher of the Year Award: Dylan Lesko (Georgia)

Perfect Game Nick Adenhart Award: Gavin Guidry (Louisiana)

Trackman Award: Noah Schultz (Illinois)

MLB/SiriusXM Two-Way Player Award: Riley Stanford (Georgia)

G-Form HBP (Heart, Bravery & Passion) Fearless Player Award: Malcolm Moore (California)

Perfect Game Development 5-Tool Award: Gavin Turley (Arizona)

Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year Award: Andruw Jones (Georgia)

Diamond Kinetics Offensive Player of the Year Award: Termarr Johnson (Georgia)

2021 Jackie Robinson Player of the Year Award: Elijah Green (Florida)

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