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Tournaments | Story | 10/6/2010

Marucci Elite feeds SEC rosters

Jeff Dahn     

The state of Louisiana rests on the far western edge of the region the universities that comprise the Southeast Conference call home.

But even with all those Texas schools right next door, Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge has always been a stalwart in the SEC and keeps the folks down on the bayou glued to what’s happening in athletic strongholds in Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Arkansas.

That’s certainly the direction high school baseball players from those states – including far-flung Louisiana – look if they aspire to play on the Division I level in college.

It’s SEC or bust for a lot of those young players. And that’s where Marucci Elite Baseball, based in Baton Rouge, comes into play.

“You know, down here everything’s SEC,” Marucci Elite Baseball founder and manager Chad Raley said. “All the kids want to play in the SEC.”

Marucci Elite Baseball, a travel team oranization that has been around only since 2004, is certainly doing everything it can to make that happen.

Twenty-six players in the high school class of 2011 who at some point in the last couple of years slipped on Marucci Elite uniform have verbally committed to play college baseball at an SEC school. Six of those commitments went to Ole Miss; four each to LSU, Alabama and Mississippi State; three to Auburn; two each to Florida and Arkansas; and one to Vanderbilt.

The Ole Miss commitments included outfielder Senquez  Golson (Pascalgoula, Miss.), Perfect Game’s top-ranked prospect in Mississippi (50th nationally), and right-hander Hawtin Buchanan (Biloxi, Miss.), ranked second in the state and 65th nationally.

LSU received a commitment from Marucci Elite right-hander Carson Baranik (Bossier City, La.), the second-ranked player in Louisiana, but Marucci middle-infielder Conner Castellano (Shreveport, La.), top-ranked in Louisiana, decided to leave the state and committed to Vanderbilt.

Four Marucci Elite players from the class of 2012 have already committed to SEC schools: right-hander Russell Reynolds (Baton Rouge, La.) to LSU; left-hander Colin Rodgers (Central, La.) to Auburn; middle-infielder Jordan Ebert (Parida, Ala.) to Auburn; and righty Jacob Shempert (Houston, Miss.) to Mississippi State.

“We have a good string of getting the right kids to play for us,” said Raley, a part-time scout for the Kansas City Royals. “Around here there’s not a whole lot (of options). I’m more focused on helping them get on to the next level, but I also want to have great teams. I’m a very competitive person; I want to win and I want to build the best team that I can.”

Marucci Elite Baseball came together in 2004 at a time Raley was coaching high school baseball in Louisiana. Raley said on that 2004 high school team, he had four players who he felt could be special down the road and was afraid they wouldn’t get the exposure they needed.

“For those four guys, I decided to create kind of local team (with players) mostly from Louisiana and a handful from Mississippi and Alabama … and build a 16-and-under team,” Raley said. “My main focus was to really help those guys go on to play college baseball.”

He was successful. Raley said that eight players from his initial 18-man roster earned scholarships at SEC schools and all 18 played collegiately at some level.

The operation expanded to include 18U, 17U and 15U teams and then burst upon the scene at Perfect Game events over the last several years.

“They do an unbelievable job of getting the college coaches and pro scouts (at their events), and you really have no choice but to try to as many of their events as possible,” Raley said of Perfect Game.

“Perfect Game just does it better than anybody else,” he said later in the conversation. “Every tournament that you go to, there’s going to be scouts there (and) it’s going to be a very competitive tournament.”

Marucci Elite Baseball fielded seven teams this past summer: two 18Us, two 17Us, two 16Us and one 15U. The organization enjoyed a lot of success.

Its Elite team went 8-1 and recorded a top-16 finish at the Perfect Game 17U WWBA National Championship at Marietta, Ga., and went 7-2 and finished in the top-eight at the PG 17UBCS Finals at Fort Myers, Fla.

Its Elite 16s won the Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational at Marietta and finished in the top-eight at the PG 16U WWBA National Championship with an 8-1 record.

The Marucci Elite Broncos (18U) won the PG/East Cobb Invitational, finished 6-1 at the PG 18U WWBA National Championship and qualified for the Connie Mack World Series.

Marucci Elite is taking two teams to the Perfect Game WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers Friday, Oct. 8 through Monday, Oct. 11. They are the teams known as Marucci Elite and Marucci Elite 17s.

“We’re taking a team that’s kind of built to win that whole thing (Marucci Elite), and then a team of guys that I may have my eye on for the summer and it’ll maybe give me a chance to be around them,” Raley said. “As long as they get the exposure and all that stuff, that’s the main focus of all that.”

The team Raley will take to the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 21-25 will be comprised primarily of high school seniors and a “handful” of underclassmen.

Marucci Elite Baseball has several special sidelights lined up for the WWBA World Championship, but one item stands above the others. Raley has arranged for former LSU and College Baseball Hall of Fame coach Skip Bertman to be his team’s bench coach throughout the tournament.

“To do well in those events, it ends up really capping off a season,” Raley said. “It helps you get your name out there and get bigger and better … and try to go out there and win one of those tournaments.”


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