We are quickly approaching the mid-way point of the high school baseball season in 2017 and that means only one thing, it’s time for mid-season tournaments and some of the biggest are taking place this week.
These tournaments are good for several reasons, one it gives teams a final warm up before they head back into league competition, and second it gives coaches a chance to see some players that aren’t starters play in a very competitive setting.
So, let’s dive right in.
National High School Invitational (NHSI)
The NHSI is back for it’s sixth incarnation at the USA Baseball National Training Center in Cary, North Carolina. Having been to two of these I can tell you first hand this event is a big deal. With several games a day being streamed on both USABaseball.com and MLB.com, the bright lights will be on the participants. And if that wasn’t enough, you can add in the 60-80 scouts that attend the event.
While this a national event, it may as well be the SoCal Invitational because area teams have won 4-of-5 these tournaments: Mater Dei (2012, 2013), San Clemente (2015), and Huntington Beach (2016) have all brought home the hardware, and if you’ve seen the trophy awarded to the winner, it’s some nice hardware.
There are four teams from SoCal in this years event: Orange Lutheran (third appearance), Huntington Beach (third), South Hills (first), and Dana Hills (first) all made the cross country trek to show the nation what they’re capable of. For the first time in the events history, all four teams from SoCal are in different pairings of the bracket meaning we could have an all-SoCal semifinal.
If the #NHSI17 has an all SoCal semifinal will @USABaseball move the event to Cali for a year? @MikeP_NHSI pic.twitter.com/6sMmF0ltfz
— Les Lukach (@LesLukach) March 27, 2017
Other SoCal team that have participated include Cathedral Catholic, JSerra, Harvard Westlake, (two-time runner up), and Aliso Niguel. Other California schools that have participated are Clovis (runner-up in 2014) and College Park.
The event prides itself for being chock full of prospects and this year is no different.
My friends at Baseball America recently put out their Top 100 prospects list and several of them will be participating in the tournament adding to the reputation of the event being a must stop for scouts. Nick Pratto (#8) of Huntington Beach is the highest rated prospect by Baseball America in the field this week.
While there are other top-notch tournaments around the country – the Boras Classic in SoCal comes to mind – the NHSI was the first of its kind to draw the sort of attention it has and rightfully so. From the media attention – there’s a postgame press conference after each game – to the hospitality provided by USA Baseball, this event is first class all around.
Best of luck to the four SoCal teams in Cary this week.
ANAHEIM LIONS TOURNAMENT
In Orange County the Lions tournament is underway and the event has once again drawn some of the top teams from around the region to compete at the varying sites. This tournament may not get the national attention that others receive, but it is one of the best because of the field it annually attracts.
Not limiting itself to just local teams, the Lions attracts top teams from Utah, Oregon, Illinios, and Nevada giving those cold weather teams a jump-start on their seasons against some quality competition.
Simi Valley entered Tuesday’s play as the top team in runs allowed (which, besides record is the key factor in determining the finalists) with two.
Behind them was Sage Hill who dropped a hard fought 3-2 game to a good Glendora team. The loss ended The Lightning’s 40 game win streak. 40 games! I don’t care what division you’re in if you win 40 straight games you’re a pretty darn good program.
UPCOMING TOURNAMENTS TO BE EXCITED ABOUT
The National Classic – April 10 – 13
The Boras Classic – April 18 – 21
Newport Rib Classic – April 5 – 11
GAMES OF THE WEEK
West Ranch vs Valencia
Annually one of the top leagues in SoCal, the Foothill League is again really good at the top this year. The battle for first place, and an undefeated record in league, will take place on Wednesday when Valencia and West Ranch square off. In what should a matchup between Timmy Josten (West Ranch) against Ben Farris (Valencia), this could end up being a close, one-run type game in front of what should be a boatload of scouts.
St. John Bosco vs Mater Dei
Bosco used a walk-off two-run double to beat Mater Dei in game one of the three game series with game two coming Wednesday at Mater Dei. Johnny Kuhn (LBSU) should get the start against Jonathan Schiffer (Washington). Both offenses of capable of putting up a lot of runs, and if the wind is blowing out at Mater Dei, look out.
Foothill vs El Dorado
A big time matchup in the Crestview League will go down tomorrow at El Dorado hosts Foothill. Both teams are loaded with young talent and win by Foothill will propel them into a tie atop league standing. Kyle Luckham of El Dorado is beginning to capture the attention of college recruiters and rightfully so. The junior is hitting .366 and is 3 – 0 on the mound for the Golden Hawks.
Rancho Cucamonga vs Los Osos
Coach RJ Farrell has the Cougars of Rancho Cucamonga believing they’re for real, and they just might be in the tough Baseline League. If the Cougars are to keep pace with Etiwanda they’re going to need to win games like this. Junior Ryan Kurtz and Senior Collin Chouinard are the top two arms on a staff that needs to take some pressure off the offense because Los Osos can swing it. The Grizzlies have eight hitters over .320 on the season and are very well coached. This should be a doozie.
Notre Dame vs Harvard Westlake
The Wolverines won game one of the three-game series on Tuesday behind another strong road outing from Jesse Bergin (UCLA). The junior continues to shine on the bump while the offense continues to cruise along. Notre Dame should counter with Hunter Greene tomorrow as it looks to even up the series before game three on Friday. In other words, just another week in the Mission League.
BEST PLAYER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
Edison High School in Huntington Beach has had its fair share of talented payers over the years, and the Chargers have several this year. One of them is junior catcher Connor Aoki. Not only does he get it done on the field, but he’s getting it done in the classroom as well where he sports at near 3.7 GPA while taking AP courses.
Connor with a double down the line against Nick Pratto at Angel Stadium. @LesLukach @connoraoki @EdisonSportsNet @richboyce4 @ocvarsity pic.twitter.com/wJ2g7a8H3u
— Damon Aoki (@HB_Aoki_Boys) March 23, 2017
If you know me you know that I’m not a huge fan of the new era of recruiting. It’s hard for me to get used to eighth graders committing to college baseball programs, but that horse has been beaten.
The biggest issue I have with the practice is that is leaves schools in a bind when it comes to recruiting upper classmen because they’ve tied up money in the young guys. There is inevitably an uncommitted upperclassman that is left to look at options outside of Division I because there simply isn’t any money left.
Case in point, Cade Seabold is a senior at Newport Harbor that all he does is hit. He can hit for power and average and would be a great fit – offensively – for any number of schools. I asked a few local college coaches about him and they all agreed he’s a very good bat. The problem? None of them had any money left in the class to make an offer.
This seemingly happens every year. There’s something to be said about a late bloomer. Something to be said about a kid that doesn’t quit or give up because he’s not committed at a young age and continues to work his tail off to earn an opportunity.
What do I say about those kids? I say sign me up.
Until next time, see you at the ballpark….
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