Tournaments | Story | 9/2/2019

East Labor Day Scout Notes

Jerry Miller        

The 2019 East Labor Day classic was severely affected by the very real threat of historically devastating Hurricane Dorian as it churned off Florida’s Atlantic coast. A vast majority of the registered teams for this year’s tournament opted to stay at home instead of venturing to Southwest Florida for the always competitive event. The clubs that did choose to participate found the weather just fine as Dorian built strength and thankfully stayed away from the coastline over the weekend.

Representing the championship club, the Southwest Monarchs, were a gifted group of players. Their grit and attention to detail from first pitch to last enabled the Tampa area club to capture the 2019 East Labor Day crown.

The North Port, Fla.-based Monarchs were led by their talented backstop, John Schroeder (2021, Lakewood Ranch, Fla.). The 6-foot-1, 170-pound, switch-hitting catcher was either the kick-starter for the high-powered Monarch offense or the hitter who was somehow at the dish when his club needed a key knock to break open a game. His ability garnered such respect that he was intentionally walked to openan inning in a game in which his club led by a run. The junior at Lakewood Ranch High School is also a mature receiver who calls a veteran’s game. His quick feet and plus arm help keep opponent’s running games in check. His guidance of the Monarch pitching staff helped lead his club to the championship game and to a 1-0 shutout win in the highly entertaining contest.

Although he was only able to play in Sunday’s games, 6-foot-5, 190-pound shortstop Gehrig Wright (2021, North Port, Fla.) made his presence felt. The smooth fielding middle infielder with a plus arm made some crucial defensive plays that kept both the 5-Star Orlando and SWFL Canes clubs at arm’s length. Despite his length, Wright can make all the routine plays in the middle infield and he does so with a calm and confident ability that belies his relative youth. The Booker High School junior shows quickness and agility and a plus arm that is consistently accurate. The big righthanded swinger also had a couple of key at-bats and big knocks for his club. He has gap-to-gap pop and flashed some developing raw power.

Strong and sturdy, Clino Penge (2021, Sarasota, Fla.) was the key bat in the middle of the Monarch’s offense all weekend. The stout, 5-foot-11, 195-pound righthanded hitter posted a 1.514 OPS over five games while driving in six runs and scoring five. The Riverview High School junior has a great feel for the barrel and shows consistent ability to work counts and drive the ball to the gaps.

Fred D'Ariano (2021, Bradenton, Fla.) posted some big numbers on the weekend while garnering the silver platter emblematic of the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The Southeast High School junior was simply outstanding on the hill in the championship game. His mastery of his mechanics and understanding of his ability is a skill usually reserved for a pitcher much his senior. The 5-foot-11, 160-pound righthander – who pitches with a veteran’s calm presence – is never going to be confused with a high velocity hurler. His fastball is thrown in the low-70s, but it shows consistent sink and arm-side run and he adds and subtracts velo with a plan that sees him reading batters’ swings and stances. He mixes in a quality 12-to-6 breaking curveball and a straight change that shows tumble at the dish. His ability to work with pace and pound the strike zone leads to a lot of anxious at-bats by the opponents. In his 1-0, complete game shutout in the tournament’s final contest, he never let one hitter get a quality barrel to a pitch.

If turning in the most impressive mound outing of the tourney wasn’t enough, the athletic D’Ariano also was a sparkplug for the Monarchs offense. The righthanded hitter is a contact guy who has a great understanding of the strike zone, a disciplined approach and a short, quick, direct swing path that sees him consistently getting his barrel to the ball. He is a plus runner who can pressure defenses with his speed and baserunning ability.

Fort Myers High School senior Jake Griffith (2020, Ft. Myers, Fla.) was dynamic in leading the powerful SWFL Canes offense. The lefthanded swinging leadoff hitter was a constant force in almost willing his club to the tournament finals. He has a great understanding of the strike zone and a truly quick bat. He also flashed some big gap power. He is a plus runner who will steal a base and press the action. Lastly, Griffith is also a gifted defender with a plus throwing arm that is highly accurate.

The East Upperclass Labor Day Classic Most Valuable Pitcher was Jace Jones (2021, Ft. Myers, Fla.). The long and lean, 6-foot-2, 180-pound junior at Cypress Lakes High School was dominant during his two appearances on the hill. He was the tough luck loser in the 1-0 championship game that saw him go the distance, striking out seven while flashing an active fastball that touched 90 mph and sat consistently between 86-88. The FGCU commit also shows a plus 12-to-6 breaking, tight-spinning curveball and a quality changeup thrown out of the same tunnel as his swing-and-miss fastball. On the weekend, Jones threw 10 innings and struck out 16 while walking only one.

Erik Arraraz (2021, Chino, Calif.) was sound for the Bulldogs Baseball Club throughout the weekend. The 5-foot-9, 150-pound dynamo was solid on the hill and at the plate for the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based team. Arraraz posted six solid innings on the mound as he mixed and matched pitches, allowing only one earned run during his outing. His fastball was thrown to the edges and he complemented his well-commanded heater with a commendable curveball that showed late break at the dish. The Ruben S. Ayala junior made his presence felt at the dish, too. His ability to make solid contact with a short and quick path allowed Arraraz to hit .400 on the weekend and post a .971 OPS.

The Cape Coral, Fla.-based Blue Bombers club had one of the tournament’s top offensive performers on the weekend in Gavin Hause (2022, Cape Coral, Fla.). The North Fort Myers High School sophomore turned in an impressive performance as evidenced by his 1.972 OPS. The 5-foot-8, 135-pound righthanded swinger was seemingly always on base. His ability to work counts was noteworthy. He has a flatter bat path and a great ability to always get his barrel to a plus contact position. He uses the entire field to spray line drives and then presses the action with an aggressive baserunning style that showcases his plus speed.

5-Star Orlando’s Josean Sanchez (2021, Kissimmee, Fla.) was arguably the top offensive performer on the weekend. The 5-foot-6, 165-pound bundle of energy only made three outs in 13 plate appearances and was the catalyst to a very impressive 5-Star Orlando lineup. The Osceola High School junior is a line drive machine who has advanced bat quickness and a great ability to drive the ball to both gaps with authority. His almost unheard of 2.103 OPS saw him collect six hits. Four of those hits went for extra bases (two doubles and two triples) as Sanchez used advanced speed and a controlled aggressiveness to push the action throughout the weekend. For good measure Sanchez also stole three bases and scored six runs. Sanchez is also a gifted defender and showcased a smooth glove and plus arm while ably manning third base for his club.

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