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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Vallot claims Rawlings Challenge

Matt Rodriguez        
Photo: Perfect Game

MINNEAPOLIS – Sixteen players were selected by the Perfect Game staff to participate in the Rawlings Home Run Challenge at the Metrodome Saturday night. Mississippi State commit Chase Vallot (St. Thomas More HS, Youngsville, La.) saved his best round for last, out-slugging left-handed hitter Braxton Davidson (T.C. Roberson, Arden, N.C.) 4-2 to claim the title of 2013 Rawlings Home Run Challenge Champion.

In the event’s opening round each player was given 10 outs. From there the top two players would advance to the final round, where they each got 10 outs again.

Vallot led off the event and set the tone early, hitting two homers to left-center, one which flew over the #PGNational banner. He got around the ball a little quicker on his last home run, putting it 20 rows deep in left field and drawing unison of approval from the other players.

I just tried to relax and flick the wrists,” Vallot said.

Following Vallot was lefty Justin Bellinger (St. Sebastians, Weston, Mass.) who hit two out, one which hit the foul pole and jarred a reaction from his peers.

It’s a great experience getting to hit some home runs here,” said Bellinger. “It’s really fun.”

University of North Carolina commit Braxton Davidson then stepped up and put on the most memorable performance of the Challenge, connecting for nine home runs, six more than anyone else in the first round.

Davidson’s show was quite entertaining. He connected on the first pitch he saw and sent it out over the right field wall. He also provided us with back-to-back-to-back homers, one that landed in the right field press box. Davidson also hit moon shots to the upper deck and a few off the right field suites.

His jaw-dropping performance drew quite the applause once he stepped out of the box after his final out.

The home run derby, man, I love it,” the winded Davidson said. “I love hitting, it’s my tool.”

This wasn’t Davidson’s first home run challenge, but it was by far his best. “My past home run challenges I struggled a little bit. I didn’t even get one out of the ballpark. But with the short porch here I’ll take it.”

D.J. Peters (Glendora HS, Glendora, Calif.) collected three home runs in the opening round as well. His first homer wrapped around the left field foul pole, drawing some ooh’s and aah’s from the other players.

Playing here was fun,” said Peters. “Hopefully I could be playing on a field like this one day.”

Stanford commit Bryce Carter (Cascia Hall Preparatory, Tulsa, Okla.) also connected for three bombs to right field to make it a three-way tie for second after the first round.

You always dream about hitting on big league fields when you’re younger,” Carter said. “Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau did the same stuff (at the Metrodome), so it’s really interesting to do that.”

Arizona commit Handsome Monica (St. Paul’s, Mandeville, La.), Clemson commit Michael Chavis (Sprayberry HS, Marietta, Ga.), and Missouri commit Shane Benes (Westminster Christian Academy, Town and Country, Mo.) each hit two home runs.

It’s a big field so it takes a big hack to get it out of here,” said Benes.

Chavis agreed with Benes on that point.

Towards the end I realized that line drives weren’t gonna win it so I tried to dip and rip a little bit.”

Monica, who’s easy-going personality and light-hearted humor kept everyone loose and laughing, didn’t connect for his two home runs until he had nine outs.

I was feeling a little bit of pressure knowing I’m gonna walk off and get some trash talk from the other players, so I’m glad I at least hit two out,” said Monica.

Louisiana State University commit Gregory Deichmann (Brother Martin, Metairie, La.) hit his only home run off the right field press box.

Luke Bonfield (Immaculata HS, Skillman, N.J.), Luke Dykstra (Westlake HS, Thousand Oaks, Calif.), Trenton Kemp (Buchanan HS, Clovis, Calif.), Michael Cantu (Corpus Christi Moody, Corpus Christi, Texas), Felix Osorio (Colegio el Dahia, Santiago, Dominican Republic), Khevin Brewer (Travis HS, Richmond, Texas), Hunter Williams (Cosby HS, Chesterfield, Va.), and Kel Johnson (home schooled, Palmetto, Ga.) all participated in the home run challenge as well.

The three-way tie prompted a tiebreaker round before the finals. Each player was given five outs during this round.

Bryce Carter wasn’t able to connect for any in this round, but Vallot and Peters were each able to connect for two and advance to the finals with Davidson.

Vallot was the last of the three to hit in the tiebreaker round, and with four outs he connected for two home runs to advance with Peters, prompting lots of cheers and excitement from the other participants.

Vallot led off the final round and hit four home runs, which would end up being enough to win. Peters followed with two homers of his own, and finally, Davidson hit two more home runs, including another upper deck shot.

Vallot was surprised his four home runs were enough to win. “I thought for sure (Davidson) was gonna win.”

Maybe it was the slight advantage that gave Vallot the win. “I use these (bats) in high school so I had a feel for them.”

Regardless, Davidson sure seemed to enjoy himself and everyone appreciated a break from serious baseball for a while.

After this challenge, Davidson admitted he really liked what Rawlings put together.

I’m usually an Easton guy, but swinging that Rawlings, I like it, I like it a lot.”

This was the sixth Rawlings-sponsored Home Run Challenge at the PG National Showcase. Vallot joins previous winners Jonathan Singleton (2008), Justin O’Conner (2009), Joshua Tobias (2010), C.J. Hnojosa (2011), and Rowdy Tellez (2012).

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