High School : : General
Thursday, January 05, 2012

Year in Review: High School

Todd Gold         Ben Collman        
Photo: Perfect Game

The 2011 high school season produced a bit of everything, with top teams and players from all over the country battling for state titles, star players dominating their competition, and underclass players staking their claim to be the next stars.

A great high school class of prep pitchers led the way with seven being selected among the first 32 picks of the draft. But two Tulsa area pitchers stole the show as Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley battled to be the top pitcher selected as their teams, Owasso and Broken Arrow also fought for the national title.

Below is a look at the top ten storylines along with Player of the Year, Game of the Year and Team of the Year for the 2011 High School Baseball Season.

10. NYC Dominance

It was a trying pre-season for New York City powerhouse George Washington HS as their legendary coach Steve Mandl was suspended before the season due to recruiting violations. Assistant Nick Carbone took over the program in stride as the team rolled through the PSAL to win another title, losing only one game in the process. Another city school, Poly Prep Country Day went undefeated to win the Independent School championship behind the pitching of Andrew Zapata. Both schools were fixtures in the national rankings all year and that should continue in 2012 as Zapata returns as do GW standouts OF Fernelys Sanchez and C Nelson Rodriguez.

9. Spanish Fork dominates Utah

The Dons of Spanish Fork came into the season with high expectations, having won back to back state titles and opened the season with a top ten preseason ranking. But after a 2-0 start Spanish Fork fell 6-2 to Bingham (who went on to win the 5A state championship at 27-3) which, at the time, seemed like a warning sign that the Dons may not have been on track for the type of season that many expected.

After regrouping with five straight blowout wins in the state of Utah the Dons headed south to Arizona to take part in the most competitive tournament in the country; the Big League Dugout National Invitational. After rolling past a very solid Montclair Prep (CA) squad in the opener, the Dons pulled out a hard fought victory over defending Arizona state champions Horizon 7-5. The Dons dropped their final pool play game to Forsyth Country Day (NC) but rebounded to knock off eventual Colorado state champ Regis Jesuit to move on to face elite national powerhouse Bishop Gorman (NV) in the championship.

The Big League Dugout championship game lived up to expectations, with the Dons picking up an early 2-0 lead before Gorman answered with a pair in the fifth. The Dons managed to push across a run in the fifth, before turning it over to their closer Kayden Porter. Porter shut down the powerful Gorman offense to capture the title.

Spanish Fork would not lose again until their first tournament game. They put themselves in a tough position in the Utah 4A double elimination state tournament, but rebounded from the 7-2 loss to Snow Canyon by outscoring their opponents 64-9 the rest of the way (five games), including a pair of revenge victories over Snow Canyon to claim their third straight championship.

8. Early Enrollees

A trend that has exploded over the last 5 years in college football is players graduating in December from their respective high schools and enrolling early in college. The trend has also started to take hold in baseball. Unlike football, this causes the player to miss their senior high school season, but gives them a leg up on the transition to college ball. North Carolina SS Levi Michael made the jump in 2009 (and was picked in the first round of the 2011 draft) and Utah prep star SS Kavin Keyes followed suit by going to Oregon State in 2011. Two more players formerly in the class of 2012 are early enrollees, Philadelphia-area catcher Chris Harvey enrolled at Vanderbilt in September and another catcher,Taylor Gushue will joining the Florida Gators program in January. This trend will be interesting to watch as more and more players try to move onto the next level as quickly as possible.

7. Pitching dominates in California

California was the first state to adopt BBCOR bat regulations, as the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) imposed the rule a year ahead of the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS). The effect was similar to what was seen in the college ranks, with scoring dropping dramatically, and a greater impact of pitching and defense.

Several elite level pitchers in California took advantage. Alhambra RHPRobert Stephenson opened the season with back-to-back no-hitters, racking up a combined 32 strikeouts (2 BBs) before going on to be selected in the first round by the Cincinnati Reds.

Edison southpaw Henry Owens also had a huge year on the mound, piling up 140 strikeouts over 92 innings and posting a 0.98 ERA in a season that included a no-hitter to open the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Owen’s performance earned him CIF Southern Section Player of the Year honors. Owens was drafted by the Boston Red Sox with the 36th overall pick.

These two pitchers were just a pair of examples of pitchers who thrived in the newly depressed offensive environment created by the new bat regulations. Both pitchers were capable of dominating without help from the bat regulations, as they each proved in previous seasons, but it was the type of edge that made them nearly unhittable.

6. Another Title for Columbus, Ringgold Fights Back

Columbus (GA) added another title to their trophy case, a staggering 11th since 1984 for the powerhouse program and legendary coach Bobby Howard. The title was the team’s second straight as OF/LHP Kyle Carter led the way with 22 homeruns and 47 RBI to go along with a 9-4 record with 97 strikeouts on the mound. But the biggest story out of the state was the team Columbus beat in the third round en route to their title, Ringgold HS. In late April, the northwest Georgia town of 2,800 was hit by hard by tornadoes, leaving eight dead, including two Ringgold HS students, the high school and baseball field destroyed along with an estimated half of the community’s businesses. The team persevered, using nearby Heritage HS’s field to continue their run to the state tournament. A new school and baseball facilities will be ready for the 2012 season, but the healing process for the town will take much longer.

5. Bishop Gorman makes it six straight

First-year Bishop Gorman head coach Nick Day inherited a team that had won five consecutive state championships (Day had previously served as an assistant with Gorman), the second longest active streak in the nation. 2011 looked to be one of the toughest challenges for the Gaels to repeat in recent years, as several local teams featured impressive rosters and looked to knock Gorman off the top step.

No such luck. Gorman went 35-4 and steamrolled through the playoffs, run ruling Day’s alma mater Green Valley (where he and several of his assistant coaches were a part of a similar six year streak) in the championship game with a walk-off double by Joey Gallo.

With Punahou of Hawai’i seeing its streak snapped in 2011, Bishop Gorman now owns the longest active streak of consecutive state championships in the nation. An especially impressive feat for a team that plays in its state’s highest level of competition; 4A.

While the pressure to take sole possession of Nevada’s longest streak of titles will be immense next season, the Gaels return an impressive squad and should be among the favorites yet again in 2012.

4. Southwestern HR records fall

While scoring was down in California, home runs were flying out of ballparks all over the southwest.

In Arizona Kevin Cron came into the year owning a share of the single season Home Run mark, having hit 22 for Mountain Pointe as a junior in 2010. Cron shattered his own record by crushing 27 in 2011, to also take the career record with 60. Cron led Mountain Pointe to their first ever state championship, claiming the 5A Division I crown, the highest division in Arizona.

In Texas Jose Trevino of John Paul II blasted 25 bombs of his own to tie the single season state record, also leading his team to a second consecutive championship in the TAPPS 4A division. Trevino threw a perfect game (five innings) in the same game he tied the home run record.

JuniorAlex Bregman of Albuquerque Academy made a huge jump, going from 0 Home Runs as a sophomore in 2010, to setting the New Mexico state record with 19 in 2011. The outburst wasn’t a total surprise though, as he did go on to win the 2010 USA Baseball Player of the Year award for his MVP performance at the 2010 Pan American Championships.

Finally, in Nevada it was Joey Gallo whose power display in 2011 included not only MVP Honors at the Perfect Game All-American Classic (on the power of a 442 foot blast), but also 25 Home Runs to set the state record while leading Bishop Gorman to a sixth consecutive 4A state championship. Gallo will be hard pressed to surpass his 2011 achievements when he returns for his senior season in 2012, but his exceptional raw tools give him a chance.

3. Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez

It is not uncommon to have two top position players in the draft be Florida prep stars, but these players’ backgrounds are a bit unconventional. #8 overall pick Francisco Lindor moved from Puerto Rico to the US when he was 12 and instead of attending a Miami-area baseball powerhouse played his prep ball at Orlando area Montverde Academy, usually known as a top basketball school. Similarly, the next pick in the draft, Javier Baez, moved from his homeland of Puerto Rico to Florida in 2005 and played at Jacksonville’s Arlington Country Day. The two teams squared off February 17 in a game attended by an estimated 150-200 scouts.

The two were teammates on the left-side of the infield of Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Mizuno’s 3
rd place finish at the WWBA World Championships in Jupiter. Lindor, a slick fielding, switch hitting SS was selected by the Cleveland Indians, and Baez, a power hitting infielder who hit .771 for ACD went to the Chicago Cubs.

2. Battle of Top FL Teams

Always one of the premier hotbeds for high school baseball talent, Florida produced excellent teams from all over the state in 2011. Early on it looked like PG’s Preseason National No. 1 Gulliver Prep would be the team to beat, but as the season progressed, more teams looked capable of making a run to the top of the rankings. Teams like Lakewood Ranch, Jupiter, Park Vista, and Pace all dominated their areas for stretches, as did Flanagan and the powerful offense of Orangewood Christian. In the end, the big stars prevailed with Alonso and first-round pick Jose Fernandez taking the 6A title, West Boca and first round pickMichael Kelly winning the 5A title, and Lance McCullers and Tampa Jesuit falling just short to finish 2nd in 4A. Two Florida champions ended in the national top ten with 3A champ Bishop Verot ending at No. 9 and 4A champ Archbishop McCarthy taking home the 2011 PG National Championship.

1. Oklahoma Gunslingers

The state of Oklahoma has produced a number of big time prospects in the past, but it has never been confused for a major baseball hotbed. To have an elite prospect come through the Oklahoma high school ranks is a big deal, to have two at the same time is something special. Especially when those two are as good as Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley.

Bundy and Bradley have grown up playing together during the summers with the DBat Mustangs program, and against each other during the spring. They were the first two high school pitchers selected in the 2011 MLB Draft, with Bundy going fourth overall to Baltimore and Bradley seventh to Arizona.

Bundy’s Owasso Rams and Bradley’s Broken Arrow Tigers appeared to be on a collision course all season. The two teams competed in the same spring break tournament in Florida, but a surprise upset of Broken Arrow prevented the two from meeting in the finals. They had a regular season clash scheduled for April 15 at Owasso, but it was cancelled due to inclement weather.

Finally, in the Oklahoma 6A State Championship game the two powerhouses met. Bundy was unavailable to pitch after having thrown in the quarterfinals a couple days prior, starting at third base instead. Bradley pitched for Broken Arrow, and was absolutely dominant. Bradley threw a complete game, two hit shutout, complete with 14 strikeouts, topping out at 97 mph with his fastball and touching 86 with his power curve.

Owasso was making its 15th championship game appearance in the past 16 seasons. Broken Arrow won their first state championship since 1991, finishing the season as the #2 ranked team in the nation.

Team of Year: Archbishop McCarthy HS, Southwest Ranches (FL)

The 2011 Perfect Game National Champions, the Mavericks won their second straight Florida 4A title under head coach Rich Bielski, running through the always tough Miami region before taking down Tampa powerhouse Jesuit HS in the title game. The deep and talented Mavs were led by seniors 2B/RHP Alex Fernandez, 3B/RHP Jose Brizuela, as well as juniors RHP Nick Travieso, SS Nick Basto, LHP Andre Martinez, who make McCarthy a formidable for again in 2012.

Here is PG’s 2011 National Champions story from Junehttp://www.perfectgame.org/Articles/View.aspx?article=5905

Player of the Year (Pitcher): Dylan Bundy, Owasso

Bundy was absolutely dominant on the mound, earning a complete game victory every time he took the mound. Bundy went 11-0 in 11 starts, picked up a Save in his only relief appearance. He allowed two earned runs over 71 innings, striking out 158 while walking just five. Bundy’s command was impeccable, his arsenal featured an upper 90s fastball (reportedly touching 100 on occasion), with a brutal five pitch mix. He also batted .467 with 11 Home Runs as a switch hitting third baseman.

Player of the Year (Position): Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman

Gallo’s all around game is best summed up with one word: power. The 6-foor-5 left handed hitting 3B/RHP came up huge for Bishop Gorman in their run to a sixth consecutive title game. He broke Bishop Gorman's single season Home Run record as a Junior, while also playing excellent defense on the left side of the infield and contributing on the mound (where he can run his fastball up to 95). Gallo hit .471/.558/1.198 for the Gaels with 76 RBIs(in 40 games).

Game of the Year:  Mountain Pointe 6, Hamilton 5 (8 innings), Arizona 5A Division I State Championship Game

It was the matchup that most hoped to see in the title game, Arizona’s career and single season Home Run leader Kevin Cron and the Mountain Pointe Pride taking on traditional power Hamilton Huskies. Hamilton reached the title game in 2009, after winning it in 2008. Mountain Pointe was back for the second consecutive season.

Both teams featured pro prospects, as Kevin Cron went on to be drafted in the third round by the Seattle Mariners. Hamilton 3B Mitch Nay and Mountain Pointe 1B Joey Curletta are both expected to be selected in the 2012 draft. There was certainly a big game atmosphere for the title game, played at Camelback Ranch, the spring home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.

Hamilton pulled ahead with a run in the top of the first off the bat of Nay. But several miscues and wildness led to a five run bottom of the first Mountain Pointe. Hamilton RHP Jake Andrews settled in after the early struggles, shutting out the prolific Pride lineup for the next six innings. A two run homer in the fourth by CF Parker Osbourne cut the lead to 5-3 and they added three more in the fifth to pull ahead 6-5.

Mountain Pointe answered with a run in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Jordan Kipper. Hamilton Coach Mike Woods had a tough decision to make, with the go-ahead run on first and Kevin Cron coming to the plate. Woods chose to pitch to him, getting a flyout to center on the first pitch to keep things even. Cron went out and retired the side in the top of the seventh to give the Pride a chance to walk-off with the title. Brantley Bell came up with two outs and Curletta on third, Bell drove a sinking liner right at the RF.

Cron came back out to the mound for the eighth, retiring the first two quickly. Then a visibly fatigured Cron walked the next two before escaping with a chopper to third. Hamilton went to the bullpen in the eighth, when Sam Kingery laced a single to left to lead things off. He moved over to second on a bunt single, then over to third on a sac bunt. Jordan Kipper drilled a hard grounder down the third base line for his fourth hit of the night to win state championship for Mountain Pointe. Cron gritted out the win with a complete game effort, striking out 14.

Click here to watch the full replay on AIA365.com

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