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Tournaments | Story | 9/9/2019

Fall Kick Off Quick Hits

Matthew Arietta        

At the 13u age division of the Fall Kick Off, Vincent Howald (2025, Owens Cross Roads, Ala.) took the mound for his club 13u Viper Black twice this weekend, walking away with 6 1/3 innings of work, seven strikeouts and no walks or earned runs. It was a very impressive showing for the young man who at not quite 13-years of age stands at 5-foot-10, 160-pounds. Howald showed advanced pitchability for his age as he used his mechanics to capitalize on his size and strength to fill up the zone, generating a lot of swing-and-miss and weak contact. Currently Howald showcases a two-pitch mix of a fastball high of 66 with some two-seam run when down in the zone and a curveball in the low- to mid-50s. Vincent’s curve is a decent off-speed offering that kept hitters off balance. The pitch has some three-quarters break with occasional depth when he gets it right. Howald has present athleticism and they ability to field his position as well with accurate throws to bases. A solid athlete, he was a fun prospect to watch this weekend.

The performance Christopher Moore (2025, Chattanooga, Tenn.) turned in at Cartersville Baseball Complex on Friday night would ultimately earn him the MV-Pitcher award for the tournament. During his team’s (eXposure 13u Prime) first game Moore did everything asked of him in the run-rule shortened affair. When all was said and done, Moore went five scoreless innings where he scattered two hits, struck out four and walked one in a quick, 45-pitch outing. Moore did a nice job using his two-pitch mix of a fastball in the high-60s and a curveball in the high 50s to fill the strike zone, consistently getting ahead of hitters and producing a lot of weak contact that his defense could handle. Moore wasn’t on the mound for long as he continually pitched efficient innings ending his outing with complete five innings. Pitchability and confidence are apparent in Moore, making him an interesting prospect to watch moving forward. A good athlete, Moore makes all plays hit his way on the mound and also hit .500 (5-for-10) on the weekend.

Conner Britton (2025, Phenix City, Ala.) was red-hot at the plate this weekend for his club, the Rip City Renegades, earning tournament MVP honors after hitting .545 (6-for-11) with three singles, three doubles, eight runs scored and four stolen bases. At the plate, Britton demonstrated keen hand-eye coordination and feel for the barrel well advanced for his age. He is quiet in the box and has smooth quick-twitch actions that generated a lot of hard barreled contact to both gaps. Hitability is apparent here, and one can only assume that despite his young age, continued results where all he does is hit will result in future advanced hit tool and possible the further development of power as well. Britton showed us other tools as well this weekend as he has decent speed out of the box and on the bases, as well as being a reliable defender in the outfield with a strong arm capable making strong throws to bases with carry and accuracy.

Brody Brant (2025, Euharlee, Ga.) Don’t let his small frame fool you, Brant can hit and he proved it this weekend in Atlanta as he finished the tournament hitting a ridiculous .667 (6-for-9) with four doubles, six runs scored, three runs batted in and three stolen bases. Brant who hits leadoff and catches for his club, the East Cobb Cardinals, displays good hitability and nice, short, quick actions in the box that lead to a lot of hard contact. Most everything is hard off the barrel with carry into the gaps. Brant is a good athlete who gets out of the box well and has the baseball IQ to make good decisions on the bases. Behind the plate, Brant shows a lot of confidence and works with his battery-mates well. He has the makings of a good receiver and stays low and still with his setup and glove upon receiving and his strength translates to all phases of the game.

Throwing at the 14u age division, Carson Hoffmeister (2023, Knoxville, Tenn.) lead the way for pitchers in the 14u bracket. Taking the mound for his club, Diamond Gold, twice this weekend, Hoffmeister was on the top performer list due to his outing Sunday at The Walker School against eXposire 14u Fall Chattanooga where he scattered six hits over as many innings, keeping his opponent off the board while tallying six punchouts. Hoffmeister used a two-pitch mix to keep hitters off balance. He showcased a fastball in the low- to mid-70s with some run when down in the zone and a curveball with good shape and some depth that produced a lot of swing-and-miss. Hoffmeister battled on the mound all game long until he had to exit after six complete due to pitch count. Hoffmeister’s pitchability is apparent as he mixed in all counts as he went with his two-pitch mix and pitched to contact relying on the fielding of his defense to make plays behind him. An avid competitor, Hoffmeister grabs your attention on the mound with his confidence and grit. A perfect 2 -0 in Perfect Game events in 2019, he now has a total of 17 strikeouts in 18 innings and owns a cool 1.20 ERA.

AJ Fundora (2024, Cumming, Ga.) is a 5-foot-10, 180-pound athletic and strong 14-year old who took the mound for his club Diamonds Baseball team Sunday in a consolation game against Red Stitches Riptides in a winning effort. When all was said and done, Fundora went 1 2/3 innings, recording more than half the outs needed via the strikeout. He showcased a two-pitch mix of a fastball with some sink in the upper-60s and a curveball in the upper-50s with good differential and shape to keep hitters off balance. Fundora battled in his relief opportunity and made quick work of his opponent needing only 21 pitches to get five outs. He also came in to pitch in a mop-up role Friday at East Cobb and struck out two hitters, needing just 14 pitches to complete his outing in the losing effort. Overall Fundora is a confident pitcher who shows time and again he can throw strikes with two swing-and-miss generating pitches and above average strike percentages.

Luke Mercado (2024, Cumming, Ga.) took the mound twice for his club, Diamonds Baseball, this weekend in Atlanta and did not disappoint as he recorded four strikeouts in just over 6 1/3 innings without surrendering a run. In a losing effort at Brook Run Park, Mercado used nine pitches to get three outs before pitching again Sunday afternoon at North Cobb High School, starting the game and giving his team a solid 5 1/3 innings of work yet walking away with a no-decision. Fundora features a two-pitch mix of a fastball in the upper-60s and a curveball in the mid-50s. He has the ability to throw both pitches for strikes with confidence in his ability on the mound, and despite only being 14, he displays some pitchability and feel for his secondary pitch. Mercado has good size and strength to his current frame as he is already 5-foot-10, 180-pounds.

It is hard to single out one to two hitters from the 14u bracket this weekend in Atlanta, but if one was to inquire about the top performances, just look up eXposure 14u Knoxville Prime Fall stat sheet and their box scores from this weekend. All this team did was hit and score runs, outscoring their opponents 26-2 on the weekend, going 2-0 in pool play and running through Diamond Gold in the semifinals before Alabama 9Spikes 14u Red in the championship at The Walker School on Sunday to capture the 14u crown.

The Rocky Top natives, led by Jack Alley (2024, Knoxville, Tenn.), tournament MVP Lukas Buckner (2024, Knoxville, Tenn.), Jake Merrick (2024, Knoxville, Tenn.), Brennon Seigler (2024, Knoxville, Tenn.) and Jaxon Walker (2024, Lenoir City, Tenn.), .450 as a team this weekend (45-for-100), slugged .610 and were a perfect 27-for-27 in stolen base attempts.

Buckner lead the way in the leadoff spot all weekend as his hand-eye coordination was on display from the start as he went 9-for-12 (.750) and racked up 12 total bases while slugging 1.000 and swiping four bases.

Alley displayed his power and feel for the barrel all weekend as he continually saw pitches deep and drove them into the gaps leading to three doubles and a triple. What was even more impressive is that he was able to capitalize when runners were in scoring position collecting five RBI.

Merrick was on fire at the plate as well as he finished hitting .600 and slugged .700 on his way to collecting eight RBI of his own and scoring six times.



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