Tournaments : : Story
Monday, July 02, 2012

DeMers a 'fearless' leader

Nick Kappel        
Photo: Perfect Game

MARIETTA, Ga. — Hitting a game-winning home run in the last inning is something every young baseball player dreams of. On Monday at the 2012  PG/WWBA 18u National Championship, Danville Hoots Zoots’ Austin Rei (2012, Campolindo HS, Calif.) lived it.

The Zoots entered play Monday tied atop the Pool G standings with CageRat Baseball 18u, a Colorado-based team who was 4-0 with a plus-31 run differential. The two teams squared off on field two at the East Cobb Complex in front of hundreds of parents, coaches and scouts.

With sole possession of first-place on the line, Rei broke the game’s 1-1 in the top of the seventh, crushing a 2-1 pitch over the 16-foot fence in left field.

I wasn’t expecting that,” Rei admitted after the game. “But it felt pretty good. To get that one in the seventh inning was really special and I’m just glad I was able to help my team in a victory.”

Rei’s high school teammate, LHP Matt Ladrech (2014, Campolindo HS, Calif.) started and pitched five innings for the Zoots. Robbie Tenerowicz (2013, Campolindo HS, Calif.)—who was invited to the 2012 PG National Showcase because of his bat—pitched two spotless innings to close out the game, striking out three while touching 88 mph.

"That was a heck of a team; they have some good players,” Zoots’ Head Coach, Jon Zuber said of CageRat Baseball 18u after the game. “They had some good approaches at the plate. The guy who was starting for them (Marco Lovato) had some downhill plane on his fastball and he gave us some trouble. But we found a way, our pitcher was able to keep us in the ball game and we were able to squeak one out there at the end. (Rei) is a heck of a player. He’s a really talented catcher and we’re spoiled to have him.”

After five tournament games, Zoots’ pitching has allowed just four earned runs in 35 innings, striking out 38. Kevin Flemer (2013, St. Mary’s College HS, Calif.) and Trevor Bettencourt (2012, St. Francis HS, Calif.) have played a large role in that success. Flemer (who is committed to Oregon State) touched 87 mph on the gun and struck out 10 in seven shutout innings Friday. Bettencourt peaked at 86 mph Saturday, striking out nine in seven innings.

The key to their success—as the coaches stressed after the game—has been the limited amount of walks (four) they’ve issued.

We’ve been pulling these games out somehow,” Coach Zuber said. “It’s a testament to these kids, they go out there and they battle.”

On Saturday, 2015 graduate Joe DeMers pitched six strong innings for the Zoots, striking out six. He was in the upper-80s consistently, even touching 90 mph. In the same game, the 15-year-old DeMers—playing in an 18u tournament—whacked a two-run homer over the center field wall at Kell High School.

Coach Zuber described the 6-foot-1, 215-pound DeMers as “fearless.” And why wouldn’t he be? According to PG Scouting Coordinator, Ben Collman, DeMers is one of the top players in the 2015 class.

He was 87-88 mph and we’ve heard he’s up to the low-90s already, which is amazing for a 15-year-old," Collman said. “He also has a lot of power in the bat. So if you’re talking about the 2015 class, he probably fits right in near the top.”

DeMers isn’t the only Zoot getting national attention. In fact, many of them have already committed to major Division-I schools. Tenerowicz is going to California, and Drew Jackson (2012, Miramonte HS, Calif.) is a Stanford recruit. Josh Cushing (2012, Campolindo HS, Calif.) will join Rei at Washington, as will Braden Bishop (2012, St. Francis HS, Calif.).

Bishop was ranked No. 110 overall by PG in the 2012 draft class after attending the 2011 National Showcase. He was drafted in the 36
th round by the Braves in last month’s draft, but broke his hand earlier this spring.

That hurts to lose him because he’s a heck of a player,” Coach Zuber said. “Bishop is the type of player that can change the game all by himself. He’s got to be one of the top center fielders in the country.”

Not only are the Zoots without Bishop, but they’re missing a few pitchers who weren’t able to come to Georgia. The team’s next game is Tuesday at 2:00 against the South Florida Bandits Prospects at the Cartersville Complex. Keeping their perfect record won’t be easy.

I have to find some pitchers. I don’t have much pitching left,” Coach Zuber said. “We’re going to have to piece something together. There are going to be some guys that are called on that maybe haven’t pitched on their high school team.”

Win or lose, Rei is enjoying the Perfect Game experience.

I played (in a PG event) with the Marlins Scout team in Florida last fall,” he said. “This is a totally different atmosphere here and I’m just really happy to be in this situation right now. We’re definitely having a great time facing some quality teams and quality pitching that you don’t see during the high school season. It’s good preparation for college.”

Coach Zuber echoed Rei’s excitement.

These kids really enjoy being around each other and they have a lot of fun playing,” he said. “I tip my hat to them. As coaches, we just try to stay out of the way and let them play.”

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