CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – From the very beginning of what has now become a remarkable 19-year run, the Perfect Game WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship has served as a launching pad for competitive programs primarily from a core of four centrally located states.
The landing zone was on Jupiter (OK, in Jupiter, Fla.) at the PG WWBA World Championship, where teams and programs are given the opportunity to elevate their profile and their prominence at the premier amateur baseball scouting event in the world.
The PG WWBA Kernels Championship serves as a qualifying event for the prestigious PG WWBA World Championship held annually in Jupiter, Fla., during early October. The team that wins the Kernels championship receives a paid invitation to the blockbuster Jupiter event, scheduled this year for Oct. 7-11 at the Roger Dean Complex, the MLB Spring Training home of the Cardinals and Marlins.
Twelve organizations laid claim to the first 18 Kernels championship trophies with the Wisconsin-based Reds Midwest Scout Team winning three in 2009, ’11 and ’14, and Wisconsin’s Hitters Baseball capturing a pair in 2009 and 2015.
But as good as those programs continue to be, their accomplishments at the WWBA Kernels are no match to the recent success enjoyed by the Illinois-based Cangelosi Sparks organization, whose teams have taken home titles each of the last four years (2017-20). And, not surprisingly, they’re back looking for that fifth ring this weekend.
The 19th annual PG WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship begins its four-day run on Friday, when 82 teams will be competing for the crown. The majority of the games will be played at the Prospect Meadows Sports Complex in Marion, Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium and Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids; Independence (Iowa) High School will also host games.
The 82 entrants will gather in Eastern Iowa having arrived from nine states, most from the core-four of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota will have highly competitive representatives in attendance, and any one of them could rise up and become a serious player in the championship chase which concludes on Monday.
And there is another intriguing addition to this year’s field of teams, one that promises to inject a Pacific Island flavor to the otherwise all-Midwestern menu. What looks to be a very talented Hawaii Elite 2G squad out of Honolulu will bring its style of play to the Iowa cornfields for all to see, in an effort to earn that coveted Jupiter bid.
There are several highly respected organizations with multiple teams in the field, including the home-state Iowa Select program with eight entrants. The Cangelosi Sparks have six teams in tow, and Canes Illinois and the GRB Rays (Wisconsin) have four each.
The real center of power looks to sit with what is now called the Reds Scout Team, based in Cincinnati. Andy Stack and Greg Reinhard have assembled a roster on which nearly every player is ranked as at least a top-500 with 18 committed to NCAA D-I schools.
Headliners on that roster from the 2022 class include PG All-American outfielder Tommy Specht (also rostered with Iowa Select 2022 Obermueller), a Kentucky commit ranked No. 41 overall; right-hander David Lally (No. 82, Notre Dame); right-hander Brayden Risedorph (No. 152, Parkland College); corner-infielder Luke Adams (No. 161, Michigan State) and left-hander Noah Samol (No. 195, Georgia Tech).
The Reds Scout Team boasts some pretty elite talent from the class of 2023, as well, including right-hander Zander Mueth (No. 9, Ole Miss), catcher Ryan Bakes (No. 69, South Carolina) and right-hander Cole Selvig (No. 86, Texas); Mueth is also rostered with the GBA Upperclass team.
The Cangelosi Sparks 2022 Black appear, on paper anyway, to be the most likely of the six Cangelosi entrants to extend the program’s WWBA Kernels championship winning streak to five years.
Armed with a roster of mostly top 500-level 2022s (2021 RHP Caden Leonard, t-500 Kent State is also rostered) the Sparks 2022 Black are built to contend. PG All-American Noah Schultz (No. 9, Vanderbilt) is the real attention-grabber, along with outfielder/right-hander Jack Lausch (No. 96, Notre Dame) and right-hander/infielder Julius Sanchez (No. 102, Illinois).
There are literally dozens of other teams at the PG WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship that will look to make some hay during what is forecast to be pretty darn hot with high temps approaching 90 over the four days spanning the final weekend in the summer of 2021. They all have rosters built around top-500 and top-1,000 prospects, and they shouldn’t be discounted at any time.
One of those teams is the aforementioned Hawaii Elite 2G, which brings seven prospects with D-I commitments: infielder Aiva Arquette (No. 464, Cal Poly); right-hander/outfielder Parker Grant (t-500, Cal State Northridge); middle-infielder Elijah Ickes (t-500, Hawaii); left-hander Kaena Kiakona (t-500, Rice); outfielder/left-hander Keoni Painter (t-1000, BYU); catcher/first baseman Beau Sylvester (t-500, Washington) and right-hander Zacary Tenn (t-500, Washington).
And there you go. It really does promise to be a special weekend, with so many talented players dotting all 82 rosters. For instance, you don't dare overlook the Iowa Select 2022 Obermueller squad with top 500-level 2022 Iowa commits Gable Mitchell, Reese Moore, Cade Obermueller, Drew Proskovec, Aaron Savary and Kellen Strohmeyer along for the ride.
Pick a card, any card, the dealer might say, and settle-in as the hands continue to be dealt over the next four days. One of these 82 teams will be headed to Jupiter in early October with its entry fee both paid and well-earned, and that’s always an exciting development. Doesn't really matter if you’re from Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota or Wisconsin. Or, for that matter, from Hawaii.