Tournaments : : Story
Sunday, September 16, 2012

Top 2015 starts at PG/Evo Upper

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Back in mid-August, in the days immediately after the Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings was staged at PETCO Park in downtown San Diego, young 2015 prospect Kyle Molnar made his Perfect Game debut.

The event was the 2012 PG National  Games, an annual underclass showcase held this year at the University of California at San Diego, north of downtown. Molnar, a sophomore at Aliso Niguel High School from Aliso Viejo, Calif., pitched two innings in one showcase game, and allowed no runs on two hits while striking out three.

On Sunday, almost a month to the day from that debut at the PG National Games, Molnar made his Perfect Game tournament pitching debut at the Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass), and he made it as the nation's  No. 1-ranked prospect in the high school class of 2015.

Molnar, who is already 6-feet-2 and 185 pounds, and delivered his fastball at 91 mph at the PG National Games, claimed he had no butterflies as he took the mound for head coach Mike Spiers and the ABD Bulldogs with dozens of sets of eyes locked on his every move.

"I just wanted to go out there and throw, just like always," Molnar said after his outing on Field 4 at the Camelback Ranch Complex, the Cactus League home of the Chicago White Sox and L.A. Dodgers. "I wanted to throw strikes and see what pitches are working and what pitches aren't."

The outing went well. Flashing a fastball that reached 88 mph, Molnar pitched five innings, allowed four runs (one earned) on four hits while striking out eight and walking two. His defense behind him committed six errors, leading to the three unearned runs.

"I felt good when I came out," Molnar  said. "I just wanted to throw strikes and let my defense play, and even though they made errors I wanted to give them another chance until they made (the play)."

The No. 2-seeded Bulldogs were playing the No. 15 Murietta Valley Hurricanes in the first round of the PG/EvoShield Upper playoffs when Molnar took the hill. ABD earned the No. 2 seed by finishing pool-play 3-0 and outscoring its three opponents by a combined 25-2. It beat the Hurricanes, 9-4, to advance to Sunday afternoon's quarterfinals.

The ABD Bulldogs roster this weekend is stocked with players who have always been Bulldogs as well as those who have played for other teams within the ABD organization.

"It's a good group, and it's a group of guys who can just compete," Spiers said. "That's one thing about all the players in our program, they'll compete. No matter what the opponent or who's here or who's not here, it's about going out and competing and looking to get better each time you come out."

The Bulldogs hit only .286 as a team in their first four games, but got great production from Tyler Brown (2013, Henderson, Nev.) and Tyler Robles (2013, Fontana, Calif.). Brown was 7-for-10 (.700) with two triples, a home run, four RBI and eight runs scored, and Robles was 3-for-7 (.428) with a double and a triple. Willie Barcena (2013, Los Angeles) was 3-for-3 with an RBI in the playoff win over the Hurricanes.

Spiers used six pitchers, including Molnar, in the first four games and they compiled a 0.91 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 23 innings.

As for Molnar, Spiers sees a special prospect with a future that may not be on the mound, but in the outfield.

"I think Kyle is going to be all right; in fact, I think he's going to be a pretty good position player," Spiers said. "The reason I wanted him to come out (Sunday) is so he can get some experience in these type of tournaments. This is a good thing for him to come out and get more experience, and as he comes out and plays in these type of events, he's going to be all right.

"He's going to be the type of player like Travis Harrison, where Travis was younger and played up all the time. He's going to  be one of those type of guys for us."

Harrison played for the ABD Bulldogs from 2007-10, was a 2010 PG/Aflac All-American and was a first round compensation pick by the Minnesota Twins in the 2011 MLB draft. He played this year in the Rookie  Level Appalachian League.

Spiers' contention that Molnar may one day become an effective position player is based strictly on Molnar's youth and still-developing body.

"The thing is, a lot of times when you get a young kid with a good arm and he's got pitchability, right away you gravitate toward that because he really hasn't developed as a position player. That's still an on-going process with him," Spiers said. "He does a lot of things a lot of young players don't do, and he's got a real good feel for the game as a position player."

Molnar, like so many other California prospects, has kept busy this fall playing in the scout leagues that are popular across the state. He said he noticed it when Perfect Game moved him up to the No. 1 spot in the 2015 national prospect rankings, but tried to downplay it.

"I looked at it, but it doesn't change my mentality or anything," he said. "I still want to be humble about it and not brag about it and just throw my game."

His focus Sunday morning was helping the ABD Bulldogs keep playing into Monday, when the semifinals and championship game of the PG/EvoShield Upperclass will be played at Goodyear Ballpark.

"I wanted to go deep into the playoffs and throw one complete game, which I didn't get (Sunday) but I still did pretty good," Molnar said of his expectations coming into the event. "I wanted to do some work on hitting also."

Molnar made five plate appearances in the Bulldogs' first four games, and singled, walked three times and stole four bases.

As Spiers walked off the field Sunday morning after picking up the first playoff win, he expressed confidence the Bulldogs could keep playing into Monday.

"Anytime you step on the field you're capable of winning, it's just a matter of getting that momentum and the pieces fall into place," Spiers said.

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