Tournaments : : Story
Monday, January 02, 2012

Year in Review: PG tourneys/showcases

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The dateline accompanying this article is appropriate because some of the most memorable moments of the 2011 Perfect Game tournament and showcase seasons took place in this sun- and sometimes rain-soaked southwest Florida city.

The venues at the Boston Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex, the Lee County Sports Complex and Hammond Stadium, City of Palms Park and various high school fields witnessed travel team championships achieved and individual dreams realized.

Southwest Florida wasn’t the only place those Perfect Game dreams were realized, of course. There were surprises, heroics and done-deals enacted on the fields of the East Cobb Baseball Complex in Marietta, Ga., across the country at the San Diego Padres’ PETCO Park, at a couple of MLB spring training complexes in the Phoenix area, along with a quick stop at venerable Disch-Falk Field at the University of Texas in Austin. And finally at the Roger Dean Complex in Jupiter, Fla., with dozens of other places in between.

In a nutshell, the 2011 Perfect Game tournament and showcase seasons were memorable from coast-to-coast.

10. Hinojosa, Hawkins pace Houston Banditos

Perfect Game All-Americans C.J. Hinojosa (2012, Spring, Texas) and Courtney Hawkins (2012, Corpus Christi, Texas) put their impressive hitting talents on display and helped the Houston Banditos Black to the championship of the PG WWBA South Qualifier in Austin, Texas, and then to a quarterfinal berth in the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter.

Hinojosa, a top-ranked shortstop who has signed with the University of Texas, was brilliant at the WWBA South Qualifier. He batted 14-for-21 (.667) – including 2-for-4 with a home run in the 4-2 win over the Dallas Patriots in the championship game played at UT’s Disch-Falk Field – with three doubles, a home run, four RBI and eight runs scored. He was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Right-hander Joseph Zurawik (2012, Bixby, Okla.) – a primary middle-infielder – was named the South Qualifier MV Pitcher after pitching a complete game no-hitter in the semifinals.

The Banditos went 5-1 at the WWBA World Championship after losing to the Texas Sun Devils in the quarterfinal round of the tournament. It was the Sun Devils' Zurawik who threw the no-hitter in the semifinal victory at the South Qualifier.

Hinojosa, outfielder Hawkins, shortstop Avain Rachal (2012, Cypress, Texas) and left-hander Griffin Russell (2012, Wichita Falls, Texas) were named to the WWBA World Championship All-Tournament Team. Hawkins, who has signed with Texas, hit .333 (6-for-18) with a home run, three doubles, a triple, six RBI, six runs scored and three stolen bases.

Russell has signed with Oklahoma State.

9. Central FL PG Royal, Reds Midwest Scout Teams make strong runs at WWBA World

Not given a snowball’s chance of advancing very far in the playoffs after outscoring its four pool-play opponents by a combined 12-4, the upstart Central FL PG Royal pranced all the way into the championship game of the PG WWBA World Championship.

Central FL PG Royal won its first seven games by a combined score of 30-13, which included a 5-3 win over the highly favored Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Mizuno in the quarterfinals and an 8-2 win over the equally highly favored Texas Sun Devils in the semifinals.

The real shocker was the win over the Cardinals Scout Team, which is part of the same FTB Mizuno organization that Central FL PG Royal belongs to, and is run by George Gonzalez and Jared Goodwin. Gonzalez explained that the Central FL PG Royal team roster consisted of players that hadn’t made the cut to be on the Cardinals Scout Team.

First baseman Nick Longhi (2013, Venice, Fla.), outfielder Alexis Rivera (2012, Kissimmee, Fla.), right-hander Joe Alexander Jimenes Gracias (2012, Puerto Rico), left-hander Nate Brecklin (2012, Eustis, Fla.), right-hander Tim Holmes (2012, Jacksonville, Fla.) and left-hander Ian McKinney (2013, Orlando, Fla.) were named to the All-Tournament Team.

Longhi hit .500 (10-for-20) with a double, three RBI and three runs. Rivera drove in three runs and scored five others with two doubles and a triple among seven his hits. Jimenes Gracias, Brecklin, Holmes and McKinney combined to allow only two earned runs in 23 innings with 34 strikeouts.

Led by an unheralded collection of prospects from Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri the Reds Midwest Scout Team won the PG Kernels Foundation Championship Qualifier and then reached the semifinal round at the PG WWBA World Championship.

The Reds went 5-0-1 to start the WWBA World Championship before losing to eventual champion Marucci Elite, 4-3, in the semifinals.

Outfielder Nathan Mikolas (2012, Kenosha, Wis.) was named the MVP of the Kernels Foundation Championship and has signed with Louisville. Mikolas, first baseman Zach Stoner (2012, Rockford, Ill.), right-hander Kevin Elder (2012, Elgin, Ill.), right-hander Andy Honiotes (2013, Geneva, Ill.), left-hander Brent Stong (2012, Andover, Minn.) and left-hander/first baseman A.J. Puk (2013, Cedar Rapids, Iowa) were named to the WWBA World Championship All-Tournament Team.

8. An All-American outfield for Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Mizuno

Head coach Jered Goodwin brought a talented roster to the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter in late October, and that talent level was clearly evident just by taking a quick look at the starting outfield and the first three hitters in Goodwin’s lineup.

It started with left-fielder Albert Almora, led to center-fielder David Dahl and wrapped up with right-fielder Jesse Winker. All three of those prospects were 2011 Perfect Game All-Americans and also constituted the starting outfield for the USA Baseball 18u National Team.

Almora has signed with the University of Miami, Dahl with Auburn and Winker with Florida. None of them may ever step foot on campus, however, as all three are projected as early round selections in the upcoming MLB First-Year Player Draft.

The Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Mizuno lost in the quarterfinal round of the tournament to its companion team, Central FL PG Royal.

7. Williams’ bomb, Silva’s Ks draw attention at PG National

Perfect Game All-American third baseman Trey Williams (2012, Santa Clarita, Calif.) and left-hander Dylan Silva (2012, Lake Worth, Fla.), dazzled scouts and fans alike as teammates on the Texas Orange squad at the prestigious Perfect Game National Showcase at City of Palms Park in mid-June.

Williams, the son of former big league third baseman Eddie Williams, hit an opposite field laser-shot of a home run to right-center field at COP, a bomb estimated to have traveled at least 425 feet. Several observers pointed out that it was a shot most big-leaguers would be proud to claim as their own.

All Silva did in Texas Orange’s showcase opener was strike out the first six batters he faced. PG All-Americans Jameis Winston, Lance McCullers, Addison Russell and Joey Gallo were among his strikeout victims.

6. Collins leads South Florida Elite Squad to WWBA 16u National Championship title

After losing its pool-play tournament opener, the South Florida Elite Squad 16u Black rode the potent bat of top catcher prospect Zack Collins (2013, Pembroke Pines, Fla.) to 10 straight wins and captured the WWBA 2013 Grads or 16u National Championship in Marietta.

Collins, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound slugger who is ranked No. 5 nationally in his class and has committed to Miami, had a tournament for the ages and did most of his damage in the playoffs. He was 18-for-29 (.621) at the plate with seven doubles, two home runs, five walks and 16 RBI. He was 13-for-17 with all seven of his doubles and both home runs coming in the playoffs.

SFES 16u Black won four shortened games on the final day of the tournament by a combined 23-4, a streak that saw its pitching staff deliver three shutouts. It beat the Orlando Scorpions Underclass Purple 8-0 in the championship game.

5. East Cobb Astros 15u, Braves 17u each win WWBA, BCS Finals titles

The Astros, under the direction of head coach Dennis Jordan, became the first team in Perfect Game history to win both the WWBA 15u National Championship and the 15u BCS Finals in the same year, capturing the titles in Marietta, Ga., and Fort Myers, Fla., in a 13 day period in July.

When the Astros beat the Orlando Scorpions 2014, 6-2, in the championship game of the 15u BCS Finals at City of Palms Park on July 14, they ran their season record to 55-0. They beat the top-ranked Dulins Dodgers in the championship game of the PG WWBA 15u National Championship on their home field in Marietta on July 1.

At the conclusion of the 15u BCS Finals, Astros first baseman Kel Johnson was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and right-hander Michael Gettys was named the Most Valuable Pitcher.

Johnson, a 6-3, 200-pound home-schooled student out of Palmetto, Ga., in the class of 2014, was 12-for-28 (.429) with five doubles, three home runs, 13 RBI and 11 runs scored in the Astros 10 games.

Gettys, a 6-foot, 175-pounder out of Gainesville, Ga., pitched 12 innings over three games and gave up eight hits and two earned runs (1.17 ERA) while striking out 16. He pitched seven innings of four-hit ball with 10 strikeouts in the championship game.

There is perhaps no travel team more storied than the East Cobb Braves 17u squad and the 2011 group cemented the legacy by winning both national championships within two weeks of each other in early July (the Astros shared the 18u BCS Finals championship with Bullets Baseball because the championship game was rained-out).

Head coach Kevin Baldwin directed a team that included Perfect Game All-Americans outfielder Skye Bolt (2012, Woodstock, Ga.), left-hander Matthew Crownover (2012, Ringgold, Ga.) and right-hander Tucker Simpson (2012, Oxford, Ala.). The championships won this summer were the fifth WWBA titles and fourth BCS Finals championships won by the Braves, all since 2003.

The Braves also won the 17u/18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational in Marietta in mid-June.

Bolt, Crownover and Simpson became the eighth, ninth and 10th Braves alumni to be named to the All-American Classic in the past three years. Bolt has signed with North Carolina, Crownover with Clemson and Simpson with Florida.

Seventeen of the roster spots at the WWBA 18u National Championship were filled by prospects who had committed to NCAA Division I schools at the time the championship was played in early July.

4. Puerto Rico prospects make huge impact

This past season could be accurately described as the year of the Puerto Rican invasion, with almost all of the top 15 PR recruits making it to the mainland for PG tournaments and showcases.

The 2011 PG National Showcase at City of Palms Park started the influx, with the appearance of just about every top Puerto Rican in the classes of 2012 and 2013. The headliner was shortstop Carlos Correa, a top-10 prospect that is expected to become the highest Puerto Rican high school draft pick in history in June.

Other top Puerto Ricans who were at the PG National included right-handers Edwin Diaz, Jose Orlando Berrios and Malcom Diaz; first baseman Kristian Brito; catchers Wilfredo Rodriguez and Cristian Munoz; and middle-infielder Jesmuel Valentin Diaz.

The young Puerto Ricans also showed up on at least three teams at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, most on Team Mizuno of Puerto Rico, coached by Edwin Rodriguez, and PRBAHS, coached by Carlos Berroa.

Correa, Wilfredo Rodriguez and shortstop Jan Luis Castro were named to the WWBA World Championship All-Tournament Team at the conclusion of the event. Most of the top PR prospects are expected at this weekend’s PG World Showcase in Fort Myers.

3. San Diego Show wins WWBA 18u, PG/EvoShield titles

It was Show Time from coast-to-coast in 2011, starting with the San Diego Show’s national championship at the WWBA 2011 Grads or 18u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., in early July, and followed up by the Show’s championship at the Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Upper class) in Scottsdale, Ariz., in late September.

The championships came courtesy of a victory over the East Cobb Yankees in the title game of the PG WWBA 18u National Championship and against cross-town rivals the San Diego Gamers in the title game at the PG/EvoShield National Championship. The victory over the EC Yankees made the Show the first West Coast team to ever win the PG WWBA 18u National Championship.

Show head coach Brian Cain called winning the WWBA championship one of the most gratifying moments in San Diego Show history, highlighted by the wins over two powerhouse East Cobb teams in the semis and championship game.

“That last out at East Cobb was something special. There was a lot of hard work crammed into just a few weeks,” Cain said. “I knew I had all the pieces of the puzzle and our kids were extremely confident. Not cocky but extremely confident. I knew I had guys that would be leaders on the field for me.”

The Show squad that won the WWBA 18u National Championship with a 9-0-1 record featured a roster peppered with 2011 prospects, including tournament MV Player shortstop Phillip Evans (Carlsbad, Calif.) and MV Pitcher right-hander Jake Reed (La Mesa, Calif.).

Evans was 9-for-22 (.409) with seven RBI at the tournament, and signed with the New York Mets after being selected in the 15th round of the 2011 amateur draft. Reed allowed only one earned run in 12 2/3 innings (0.63 ERA) with seven strikeouts, and won two games and saved two others.

Many of the Show players went on to play with the Ohio Warhawks at WWBA World Championship, including PG All-American third baseman/right-hander Corey Oswalt (2012, San Diego, Calif.).

2. Marucci Elite wins both World Championships

Marucci Elite made history over a two week stretch in October when two decidedly different clubs won both the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers and the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter.

Four prospects filled roster spots on both Marucci Elite World Championship teams: shortstop Oscar Mercado (2013, Tampa, Fla.), infielder Blake Hennessey (2014, Point Ponte Verda, Fla.), catcher Adrian Chacon (2013, Tampa, Fla.) and catcher Andrew Dunlap (2013, Houston, Texas) – the MV Player at the Underclass event.

“This has been an unbelievable ride,” Marucci Elite head coach Chad Raley said at the conclusion of the WWBA World Championship. “I’m really proud of these guys and they have a tremendous amount of character. We’re definitely doing some good things here.”

Outfielder Ty Moore (2012, Mission Viejo, Calif.), a UCLA signee, was named the MV Player at the WWBA World Championship. Right-hander Marcus Brakeman (2012, Tierra, Fla.), a Stanford recruit, was named the Most Valuable Pitcher.

Marucci Elite went 7-0-1 en route to its WWBA World Championship title including a 4-2 win over Central FL PG Royal in the championship game. Moore, Brakeman, catcher Michael Barash (2013, Boca Raton, Fla.), middle-infielder Chase Nyman (2012, Pascagoula, Miss.), left-hander Hunter DeVall (2012, Clinton, La.), right-hander Hunter Newman (2012, Bloomingdale, Ga.) and PG All-American Cody Poteet (2012, Bonita, Calif.) were named to the WWBA World Championship All-Tournament Team.

1. Perfect Game, Gallo hit huge home runs

Perfect Game took over as the primary sponsor of the All-American Classic, previously known as the Aflac All-American Classic, and it was played once again at PETCO Park in San Diego. Everyone agreed the event was a huge success.

The four days leading up to the all-star game were filled with intrigue and opportunities for the nearly 50 top prospects invited to participate, including memorable trips to the Rady’s Children’s Hospital –which benefitted from the event – and to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, arranged by Col. Dwight Schmidt, the father of PG All-American Clate Schmidt (2012, Acworth, Ga.).

It was an unqualified success, highlighted by an epic 442-foot home run off the bat of the game’s Most Valuable Player Joey Gallo (2012, Henderson, Nev.), the 10th longest home run in the eight-year history of PETCO Park. Almost 8,000 fans were on hand to witness Gallo’s blast, which helped the West to a 6-2 win over the East.

In addition, all 19 pitchers that took the mound during the game threw at least 91 mph, led by Lucas Giolito's 97 mph fastball.

At the Awards Banquet the night before the All-American Classic at PETCO, 2012 right-hander/infielder Lance McCullers – whose fast ball has reached 98 mph – received the Jackie Robinson Award as the Perfect Game Player of the Year. McCullers hit .422 with seven home runs and 24 RBI and struck out 79 in 52 innings pitched during his junior season in high school.

“I really can’t put into words what it means to win this award,” McCullers said in a post-banquet interview. “Jackie Robinson was such a great person on the field – he was a great player – but off the field he was a great person who broke through barriers.”

Other honorees included Gallo (Reebok Offensive Player of the Year), Giolito (Baseball America Pitching Prospect of the Year), Clate Schmidt (Nick Adenhart Award), Alex Bregman (EvoShield SWAG Award) and Carlos Correa (Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year Award).

Also at the banquet, the players got to hear from future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman and legendary pitcher Tommy John, who probably belongs in the Hall himself.
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