Tournaments : : Story
Friday, June 10, 2011

Upstate Mavs set goals high

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

MARIETTA, Ga. – The 17u/18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational started out on a high note for South Carolina-based Upstate Mavericks Baseball at the East Cobb Complex early Thursday afternoon. That was when Upstate Mavericks 18u had just held on to beat Marucci Elite 18’s, 7-6, in the first round of the four-day tournament.

Things went south about nine hours later when Upstate Mavericks 17u was blasted by Excel Blue Wave, 12-0, in one of the invitational’s final games of a long day.

So go the ups-and-downs of long tournaments like the Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational, a phenomenon Mavericks Coach Chris Nall is very much aware of. He brought these two teams to northeast Georgia this week with every intention of winning of a championship, but his reason for bringing the prospects together so they can display their skills is more far-reaching.

“I tell the guys before they start playing with us that our goal is to get them to college baseball,” Nall said. “My goal for each player is to get them the opportunity to play at the next level, and since 2006 we’ve had 186 kids get college scholarships to play at the next level, and we’ve had seven guys drafted.

“At the end of the day I love winning tournaments and I’d love to come down here and win this tournament, but it would mean more to me if a couple of guys got committed this weekend.”

Upstate Mavericks Baseball was established by Nall and others in 2006 with just one team. Nall had been coaching at the collegiate level with Anderson (Ind.) University – he is also an associate scout with the New York Mets – but enjoyed the experience with the Mavericks so much an organization was formed. Today, UMB has 12 teams spanning age-groups from 12u to 18u.

“I enjoy this. This is fun,” Nall said. “I tried to coach high school ball in the spring and it’s a little different. I was use to the college level and the level of the guys at these tournaments, but it’s fun and I really enjoy the kids.”

The Mavericks played in the PG-EC Invitational last year, and the 18u’s finished third after a semifinal loss to eventual champion Marucci Elite. Mavericks’ teams have also performed well in PG WWBA tournaments.

“We’ve had some good showings, but it’s time to step it up just a little bit,” Nall said. “That’s our goal this weekend, to come away winners.”

Many of the Mavericks players are already winners off the field.

Sixteen of the 18 players on the Maverick’s 18u roster have committed to colleges, many of them Division I. Twelve of the 22 prospects on the 17u roster have committed, many to D-I schools like Kentucky, Clemson, South Carolina and Coastal Carolina.

Right-hander Daniel Gossett, a recent graduate of Byrnes High School in Lyman, S.C., who has signed with Clemson, was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 16th round of the First-Year Player Draft earlier this week.

A lot of the Mavericks players were first seen by college coaches or professional scouts at Perfect Game events.

“Perfect Game does and amazing job,” Nall said. “Very few places in the country can you go and get the exposure Perfect Game (provides), if anywhere. We come down here and there can be anywhere from six to 50 scouts at each game; we go down to Jupiter (Fla.) there’s a 100 scouts at a ballgame. It’s one of a kind, it’s really special and we’re really appreciative of all that Perfect Game does for us.”

With Upstate Mavericks Baseball based in South Carolina, it finds itself in a hotbed of travel ball organizations, sharing easy driving-distance territory with Diamond Devils Baseball, Dirtbags Baseball and East Cobb Baseball, among others.

“I love it. It’s really competitive,” Nall said. “It makes the guys better and it gives them someone to compete against. The more competitive they are in high school ball the more it rolls over to the summer. Being able to stay local for (a lot) of our stuff really helps.”

Even though Upstate Mavericks Baseball grew to 12 teams from just one in five years time, Nall doesn’t anticipate any more growth in the near future. He kind of likes where he is right now.

“The last two years I said I was going to down-size but by the time it’s time to put rosters together we’re right back to where we were,” Nall said. “Without having a complex of our own or really something to build off of, we’re kind of maxed out on what we want to do.

“We don’t want to get to the point where we’re doing it just to be doing it,” he continued. “We want to put a quality product out on the field, and if we’re able to do that, I’m willing to expand but I don’t necessarily have goals to expand.”

Both Upstate Mavericks squads were scheduled to play their second pool-play games of the tournament late Friday afternoon.


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