Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, October 27, 2012

'Heady' additions boost Canes

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

JUPITER, Fla. -- Like a renown chef skillfully working his magic, EvoShield Canes head coach Jeff Petty added a pinch of this and a slice of that, and whipped together a team that has already positioned itself nicely to challenge for the title at this year's PG WWBA World Championship.

The EvoShield Canes (Canes Baseball is based in Fredericksburg, Va.) has nine top prospects from Virginia on its 24-man roster, but Petty went out of state to take care of some of his team's most essential needs. The result is a collection of talent that includes 23 players that have committed to NCAA Division I schools and only three prospects  ranked outside of the top-500 in the classes of 2013 and 2014.

The Canes won their first three games here Friday and Saturday by a combined score of 21-0, with four pitchers working to throw 18 shutout innings on nine hits while striking out 18.

"We've got a group of guys that obviously look good on paper, but I think our guys want to win really bad. It shows in their actions and the way they carry themselves on and off the field," Petty said Saturday afternoon from the Roger Dean Sports Complex. "A lot of times you're dying for someone to step up and be a leader, but for the first time that I can remember we've got 20 guys that are leading the way, and they're leading by their actions and the way they are playing."

Petty estimated that between 60 to 70 percent of this roster has played for the Canes in the past on a regular basis, whether they were native Virginians or not. But he also said he brought in some key guys to fill obvious holes, or in his words, "some pieces that we needed."

One of those he brought in was top shortstop prospect Connor Heady, a 2013 from Prospect, Ky., who is the No. 61-ranked national prospect in his class and a University of Kentucky commit.

This is Heady's first experience playing with the Canes Baseball organization, but he is no Perfect Game newcomer. This is his 10th PG event since 2010 and he has attended four PG showcases, including the prestigious PG National Showcase in June. He also attended last summer's non-PG East Coast Pro Showcase and played in the Area Code Games.

"It's a big event. The biggest event of the fall," Heady said Saturday, speaking of the PG WWBA World. "I've really been working hard all summer and all fall, trying to keep playing the game and just working out and getting in front of all these pro scouts. Just trying to play baseball and play it hard."

He played at last year's PG WWBA World Championship with the Midland Redskins/Royals Scout Team and last year's PG WWBA Underclass World Championship with the Midland Braves/KC Scout Team.

"Last year coming here as a junior, there was really heavy focus on the seniors, so I was still able to relax," Heady said. "This year I came in and I was like, 'I've already been here' so I've been able to stay relaxed; it's just playing baseball. There are more people here, but it's still just playing baseball.

"This is definitely beneficial," he added. "They (PG) bring in all the scouts, and it's a great tournament and great competition."

He first played with this EvoShield Canes team last weekend in a small round-robin tournament Petty organized at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

"We've really jelled together the past couple of days," Heady said. "When we got rained out (Friday) we went on a team trip to Dave and Buster's and we had a good time. Just riding the bus together with these guys and being together, it's a good time."

Petty felt he owed it to his players to assemble a team with a chance at winning a Perfect Game national championship and earning PG national championship rings on Monday afternoon.

"Let's face it. This is basically Omaha for us. This means everything for us and our program," he said, referencing the site of the College World Series. "The kids know that they're competing against the best players in the world at their age group, and they want to have a shot to be on top."

His efforts toward reaching the top included bringing in catcher and Vanderbilt commit Jason Delay from Georgia and catcher and Cal State Fullerton commit Tyler Alamo from California.

Petty also brought in another California kid, corner outfielder Ryan Kirby, and Heady filled a needed hole in the middle-infield that opened due to an injury to a Canes regular. Heady is a shortstop by trade, but played a sparkling second base during action on Saturday.

Alamo is a 2013 ranked 71st nationally; Delay is a 2013 ranked 441st; and Kirby is ranked 121st in the 2013 class. They complement nicely a roster that already included left-hander/first baseman A.J. Puck from Iowa, a PG All-American ranked No. 20 in the 2013 class, and first baseman/left-hander Justin Bellinger, ranked No. 15 in the 2014 class.

"We went after needs," Petty said. "We have a program that most of the time the guys that come here are from within our program, but we had some needs and we filled the holes with what we thought are professional prospects."

One of Petty's biggest challenges the first two days of this event was filling out his lineup card considering several high-end prospects are going to have to sit during every game the team plays here.

"Everybody's checked their egos at the door," Petty said. "We thought that could be an issue but that's been the furthest from the case. All of these guys are playing with each other like they're best friends and they've been playing together for years. It's really been fun to watch."

Many of the players on this roster will be following the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft with keen interest this June. Eighteen D-I schools are represented on the EvoShield Canes list of commitments, but there is no guarantee any of the prospects will ever matriculate at any of them.

"It's an hour away from home and it's SEC baseball, and I wanted to play in the SEC," Heady said of his decision to commit to Kentucky. "They really put it together the last couple of years and the coaches are great there, so I figured it was a great choice and if I go to college, it's going to be a great thing."

But the draft will be there for many of these Canes to consider.

"You can't rule it out right now," Heady said. "You've got to wait and see what happens, and just leave it up to the play (on the field), really."

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