Tournaments : : Rankings
Thursday, May 20, 2010

ABD Bulldogs Top 17U National Rankings

Jim Ecker        
Perfect Game USA has been announcing its national preseason Top 25 rankings this week. We announced the 14U rankings on Monday, the 15U rankings on Tuesday and the 16U rankings on Wednesday. We’re announcing the 17U rankings today, with the ABD Bulldogs claiming the No.1 spot in the country. We’ll announce the 18U rankings on Friday. The teams that received Honorable Mention in all five age groups will be announced next week.
 
17U Travel Team Rankings
 
The ABD Bulldogs had an outstanding 17-&-under ballclub in 2009 that featured such Aflac All-Americans as Tony Wolters, Austin Wilson, Peter Tago, Tyler Shreve, Stefan Sabol and Michael Lorenzen. If you follow the top travel teams in the country, you know how talented they were.
 
Those guys have graduated to ABD’s 18-&-under team this summer, pending the draft, but here’s bad news for anyone who has to play this year’s version of the 17U ABD Bulldogs. Mike Spiers, the director of ABD’s vaunted program, thinks this year’s 17-&-under club could be better than last year’s.
 
Gulp.
 
“This is probably the best group we’ve had in our program for 17U,” Spiers declared. “The chemistry is pretty good.”
 
The talent is not bad, either. That’s why Perfect Game USA has tabbed the ABD Bulldogs as the No.1 team in the 17-and-under division for our preseason rankings.
 
Better than last year?
 
“It has more pro prospects,” Spiers said. “There are a lot of guys who are potentially very high draft picks.”
 
Double-gulp.
 
Spiers began ticking off the names. He began with Travis Harrison and Christian Lopes, calling them “standouts since Day 1.” Harrison, a third baseman and outfielder, has some tourney MVP trophies on his shelf. Lopes, a middle infielder and now a high school junior, hit 25 homers as a freshman and sophomore for his high school team.
 
“We can just go one-by-one (down the roster),” Spiers remarked. “I believe a lot of players on our previous teams would say the same thing, that this is the best group on a 17U team.”
 
The University of San Diego baseball program could be one of the beneficiaries of the ABD program, if the guys on this year’s 17U club go to college. Daniel Camarena, a left-handed pitcher with a tremendous curveball, has committed to the Toreros. So have Max Homick, an ambidextrous performer, and Ryan Keller, a right-handed pitcher. Homick can pitch as a lefty and play third base as a righty, and how many times have you seen something like that?
 
The Bulldogs also feature Eric Snyder, a catcher/outfielder who has committed to UCLA, and Jose Cardona, a right-hander who has announced for Cal State Fullerton. The other talented players on the club are Ryan Garvey, Brett Harrison, Blake Burrell, Quincy Quintero, Wallace Gonzalez, Tyler Rahier, Johnny Drown, Brett Geren, Zachary Nelson, Jean Ramirez, Cody Sulflow, Rouric Bridgewater, Grant Watson, Drew Stiles, Bryce Mosier, Daniel Berg, Henry Owens and Jake DiDonato. Owens, a lefty, has hit the mid-90s with his fastball.
 
Many of the players on this year’s team won the 2009 WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., last summer under the banner of the Braves Scout Team. Camarena was named the MVP of that tournament and Owens was saluted as the Most Valuable Pitcher.
 
When Camarena isn’t pitching and freezing batters with his curveball, he’s playing the outfield and hitting a ton. “He can pitch or hit,” Spiers said. “It’s hard to say what he’s going to be.”
 
Owens has terrific talent, but he also has the intangibles, something baseball people like to call his makeup. “His character. His toughness,” Spiers said about Owens. “He’s got the confidence. He’s got what it takes to compete at the highest level.”
 
All told, nine of the guys on this year’s roster are ranked among the top-100 players in the Class of 2011 by Perfect Game USA.
 
Better than last year’s team? Could be.
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