Tournaments : : Story
Friday, September 14, 2012

West Coast Clippers set sail

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Friday afternoon, in what would be his first at-bat at a Perfect Game tournament, West Coast Clippers lead-off hitter Trae Arbet spotted a pitch he liked. He connected solidly, and with a little help from a prevailing 20 mph southeast win, drove it over the left-centerfield fence on Field 3 at the Cincinnati Reds' spring training facility at the Goodyear Recreational Sports Complex.

It was not only a great way to make a rather late introduction to the Perfect Game community, but also a terrific way for the Clippers to set sail on yet another appearance at the Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass) -- a come-from-behind 7-4 win over All-Star Baseball Academy 17u.

Arbet (2013, Temecula, Calif.) later added a single to his solo homerun, drove in two runs and scored two others in leading West Coast to its tournament opening-win at the 56-team national championship event. Every team played its pool-play opener at Goodyear on Friday and will play two more pool-play games Saturday at either Goodyear or the Camelback Ranch Complex in Glendale.

"I've been looking forward to this for a while now," Arbet said after the Clippers scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth to rally from a 4-1 deficit to beat ASBA 17u. "I just want to help my team win and I enjoy playing with the Clippers. It's been a lot of fun."

After the Clippers fell behind early, right-hander Michael Alexander (2013, Temecula, Calif.), pitched three innings of no-hit, no-walk ball with two strikeouts to hold ASBA 17u in check long enough for West Coast to rally.

Clippers head coach Buck Taylor -- also the head coach at Palomar Community College in San Marcos, Calif., for the last eight years -- thought it was an excellent way for his young club to kick off the PG/EvoShield upper class event.

"Our guys responded late and did a good job of finding a way to score runs," Taylor said. "Our pitchers kept us in the game -- although they tried to find ways to get us in trouble -- and offensively I just think we did a good job in the last few innings of finding a way to push runs across and put a little pressure on their defense."

The West Coast Clippers are based in Temecula, Calif., and most of the roster spots are filled with prospects from the cities of Temecula, Carlsbad and Muerrieta.

"We're just trying to teach them fundamentals and get them exposure and find them a place to play (in college)," Taylor said. "I love Temecula; it's a great baseball area and this is just a good group  of kids. They're getting a lot of opportunities and a bunch of them have committed already to four-year schools."

Clippers right-hander Brad Wegman (2014, Temecula, Calif.) has committed to Southern Cal and first baseman Matt Wezniak (2014, Carlsbad, Calif.) has committed to San Diego State. Arbet, the 192nd-ranked top national prospect in the class of 2013, has committed to the University of San Diego.

"He's a very special kid and his ceiling is so high," Taylor said, noting that Arbet didn't start playing baseball until he was 12 years old. "He's got power, speed and arm strength and he's just learning the game, but tool-wise, he's as good as they get."

Taylor said this particular group of Clippers has been playing together for a little over three years and the roster consists almost entirely of juniors in high school (class of 2014). While this is the first Perfect Game tournament for Arbet (he did play in the Area Code Games in early August) most of the other Clippers have been at this for at least the past three years.

"These kids have been out to so many of these that it's second nature for them, but this is great weather, it's a good experience and there are a lot of college coaches," Taylor said. "That's the goal of doing of this stuff, teaching them baseball and trying to get them exposure to the four-year (college) level and go from there.

"We'll come out and do two or three of these Perfect Game tournaments (a year) and I think the exposure for the kids is probably the best at these tournaments, as far as for the four-year schools."

Dozens of prospects from both the 2013 and 2014 classes that are here this weekend have already made NCAA Division I commitments. Hundreds of others are still looking for that perfect fit and a good gathering of college recruiters were in attendance Friday. Many, many more are expected to be here over the weekend.

They'll get to see oodles of talent on display from some of the top travel ball teams from 11 states.

The San Diego Show are the tournament's defending champion and are in the field. Mountain West 2013 won last year's PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) and is also in this weekend's field. Dozens of other top teams primarily from California and Arizona are also expected to challenge for the championship, and Taylor expects the Clippers to be among that group.

"We don't ever walk out on the field thinking we're going to lose or that team is better than us," Taylor said. "It's baseball, there's a wood bat in their hands, which makes it a little different, and if you can pitch and play defense, which we do real well, we'll be all right.

"It's a good group of kids and they're good-character kids, and they're really fun to be around."

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