Tournaments : : Story
Thursday, March 28, 2013

PG High School Showdown on tap

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- An elite eight of the top high school baseball programs from Florida and Georgia will converge on the playing fields at Terry Park and City of Palms Park next week for the inaugural Perfect Game High School Showdown.

The eight-team tournament -- with four teams from Florida and four from Georgia -- will run Thursday, April 4 through Saturday, April 6 with each team playing four games against the schools from the opposing state. It promises to provide the participating teams and their players an excellent opportunity see how they stack-up against their counterparts from an adjoining state.

"This is the first event we have ever done for high school teams," PG High School Showdown tournament director Ben Ford said. "It will allow these teams to play other top teams that they normally would not get to play, and also get more exposure from scouts and college coaches that travel teams get from our other events. This is the first year of an event that we plan on making the top high school tournament in the country."

The top Florida teams in attendance include nationally No. 3-ranked Venice (Fla.) High School and No. 37-ranked Mater Academy out of Hialeah Gardens. They will be joined by Florida brethren Sarasota High School and Montverde Academy.

Nationally No. 12-ranked Parkview High School from Liburn, Ga., heads the Georgia contingent. The other Georgia schools involved are Blessed Trinity High School from Roswell; Cartersville High School; and Savannah Christian High School.

Teams will play single games on Thursday and Friday, with two games each on Saturday. There will be no playoffs at this event, although champions will be crowned: each state will have its own champion and an overall champion will also be cited based on the best overall record.

Head coach Chan Brown has led Parkview High to two straight Georgia state championships and the Panthers will have reached the halfway point of their 2013 schedule by the time they arrive in southwest Florida at the end of next week. Brown welcomes the diversion the Showdown provides.

"We were excited to get the invitation and be a part of it," he said. "Obviously, we're going to play some very good teams from Florida, and that's always the deal for us to try to put ourselves on a national stage and see how we can play against teams that are pretty good in their states, and even teams that are nationally ranked right now."

There are at least 33 prospects on the eight rosters that have either signed with or committed to NCAA Division I schools. Some of the top prospects include Mater Academy's William Abreu and Michael Mediavilla, both Miami recruits; Blessed Trinity's Keenan Innis (Georgia Tech); Sarasota's Jason Sierra (Vanderbilt); and Venice's Nick Longhi (LSU) and Dalton Guthrie (Florida). And that's a very small sampling.

Sarasota High head coach Clyde Metcalf has led his program to eight Florida state championships, two mythical national championships and won more than 760 games since taking over the program in 1982. He also served as the head coach of the East Team at the 2012 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings, so he's used to be surrounded by the country's top high school prospects. And he particularly likes the timing of the PG High School Showdown.

"This is just going to be a good opportunity for us," Metcalf said. "We're going to have a chance to play four teams from Georgia so we're going to get to play four people that we would not normally play, and that's always good for your kids. We start our (Florida state) playoffs in about three weeks, so the timing is really good for us.

"Just to be able to go out and play some unfamiliar faces in a tournament setting where there's people watching you and there's a little more pressure to perform, I think it gets you ready for the playoffs."

Blessed Trinity High in Roswell and Cartersville High are both located in the northwest Atlanta suburbs, and their rosters are filled with players who spend their summers on the rosters of assorted teams under the extensive East Cobb Baseball umbrella. When PG approached Blessed Trinity head coach Andy Harlin with an invitation to the Showdown, he jumped at the opportunity.

"We've actually worked with Perfect Game before as one of their host sites for their summer tournaments in Georgia, and we know the reputation of Perfect Game," Blessed Trinity head coach Andy Harlin said. "To be a part of their tournament, we feel like it's going to be a lot of fun."

It is certainly no stretch to look into a crystal ball and declare head coach Craig Faulkner and his Venice Indians the pre-tournament favorite. In addition to Longhi, the nation's No. 40-ranked prospect in the class of 2013, and Guthrie, No. 92 in the class of 2014, the Indians have seven other players that have already signed with or committed to college programs. They are in Cary, N.C., this week competing in the USA Baseball National High School Invitational, but that hasn't kept Faulkner from looking ahead to the PG HS Showdown.

"We're very exicited about that," Faulkner said. "It's going to be a Florida against Georgia type of deal and we love playing teams from other places, especially good teams. It's a trip that we can travel to and not have to stay overnight, so we're very excited about that. Playing back-to-back tournaments is going be a great test for us; every team is a good team and that's really what we need to get readuy to finish out the season."

It's possible the first PG High School Showdown could be the hottest thing going in Fort Myers the first weekend in April. But it would be prudent to keep an eye on those hometown Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles, who are playing in today's NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament in the round of 16 as a 15th seed. The Final Four is April 6-8.


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