LONG BEACH, Calif.—In addition to being the home of the Area Code Games for a week every summer, Blair Field serves as Long Beach State's home field during the spring. Over the last two seasons, the Dirtbags and their opponents have hit just seven home runs at Blair.
In 17 games over five days at the Area Codes, high school players swinging wood bats have hit as many home runs—seven—as college players swinging metal bats hit at Blair in 57 games over the last two years.
Last year, just two home runs were hit at the Area Codes. Andrew Knepper of ESPN HS has been involved with putting on the games for the last eight years, and he said the most homers he can remember being hit at the games in one year is four. But he has a good notion why power numbers have spiked this year: the weather has been much hotter and drier than usual, so the marine layer that usually hangs over Blair Field in the morning and evening has been absent.
On Thursday, a breeze blowing out to left field for part of the day was also a factor. But while the wind might have helped Conner Simonetti's opposite-field shot leave the park Thursday, Jacob Gatewood (Clovis, Calif.) needed no aid from the elements. His three-run homer for the Northern California Athletics was a no-doubter off the bat—and it left scouts buzzing.
With his team trailing Simonetti's Yankees 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning, the righthanded-hitting Gatewood came to the plate with two on and two out. Righty Jesse Roth tried to bust him up and in with a fastball, but the 6-foot-5 Gatewood got his arms extended and launched a towering, majestic blast down the left-field line. It came off the bat at 107 mph, according to TrackMan, and finally landed on the road beyond the wall, taking a high bounce over the DeMarini pickup parked on the other side of the street and hitting the chain-link fence beyond that.
"I knew I got it," Gatewood said. "It was a fastball up and in. I kind of like that pitch—right in the wheelhouse. The at-bat before, I was kind of flying open. So I wanted to make sure that I kept my shoulder in and make sure I was striding back toward the pitcher. It ended up working out for me, strategy-wise." [...] Continue Reading »
LONG BEACH, Calif.—Pitching held up better Wednesday at the Area Code Games than it did on Tuesday, but there was still one football score (White Sox 18, Nationals 11) in a game that included the fifth home run of the tournament—a 431-foot blast to left-center by Arkansas commit Jonathan Denney. Denney's three-run shot came on a fat 90 mph fastball from Jordan Parnell, and exited his bat at 107 mph according to the folks at TrackMan (see Conor Glassey's explanation of TrackMan's technology here).
That was the most electrifying moment of the day, but Denney wasn't even the top offensive performer on this own White Sox team. That honor went to 2013 shortstop Andrew Rosa (Owasso, Okla.), who went 3-for-3 with two doubles and seven RBIs. Together, Rosa and Denney helped lead the White Sox back from a seven-run first-inning deficit.
Rosa got the White Sox on the board with a two-run single to right field in the second. He added a three-run double that one-hopped the left-field wall in the third, then ripped a two-run double down the left-field line in the fourth. All of his hits came on fastballs.
"I felt pretty good," said the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Rosa. "I got in good fastball counts, saw the ball pretty well and put a good bat on it. I feel like i've got a good strike zone and I know my zone pretty well. I like to get in good counts—there are a lot of good curveballs out here that you want to stay away from."
Rosa, an Oklahoma State commit, is a good athlete who is still learning the nuances of shortstop, which he did not start playing until high school (he was a second baseman previously). He did commit a throwing error in the first inning, and his internal clock isn't always on point, but he said he is gaining confidence and getting more comfortable at short the more he plays there.
He certainly looked comfortable in the batter's box. [...] Continue Reading »
LONG BEACH, Calif.—Three days into the Area Code Games, teams have already hit four home runs at spacious Blair Field—double the homer total for the entire six-day event in 2011.
Offense was abundant Tuesday, as two games turned into blowouts and every team scored at least three runs. Arizona recruit Michael Hoard (Tucson, Ariz.) set the tone for the day with a two-run homer to right field in the first inning of the first game, a 4-3 win for the Reds over the Athletics.
That was the third homer of the Area Codes; the fourth came when Rangers first baseman Garrett Luna (Magnolia, Texas) pulled a solo shot down the left-field line in an 11-4 win against the Nationals. It was the continuation of a strong week for Luna, who has played strong defense at both infield corners and driven the ball to both sides of the field (he had a double to right field Monday).
On a day when bats overshadowed arms, the top pitching prospect to take the mound Tuesday really stood out. Stephen Gonsalves (San Marcos, Calif.), a San Diego commit, started for the Brewers against the Royals and breezed through three scoreless innings, striking out five and allowing just one hit. Loose and projectable at 6-foot-5, 195 pounds, Gonsalves pitches downhill with an 88-92 mph fastball, which he commanded extremely well to both corners. He used the heater as the putaway pitch on four of his five strikeouts.
"He did a great job pitching at the knees with his fastball," said Brewers manager Josh Belovsky, a scout for Milwaukee. "He was having a little trouble getting his split-finger over, and the curveball, he had a little better command of that. We talked after that second inning and said, 'Hey, if no one's really touching that fastball, you can live off that.' So he kind of breezed through that third inning a little better and kind of banged that split." [...] Continue Reading »
LONG BEACH, Calif.—Rising seniors typically headline the Area Code Games, but the games also give precocious underclassmen opportunities to make names for themselves. Alexander Jackson took full advantage of that opportunity Monday.
A catcher/outfielder in the class of 2014, Jackson (Escondido, Calif.) provided all the scoring in Monday's most compelling game at Blair Field, a 2-0 victory for the Brewers (Southern California) against the White Sox (Midwest). And he did it as a reserve.
While big-name teammates like Jeremy Martinez, Dominic Smith and Colin Winters went hitless, the righthanded-hitting Jackson ripped a double to left field against Florida recruit Logan Shore in his first at-bat in the fifth inning, then scored two batters later to break a scoreless tie. Then, in the seventh, Jackson launched a solo homer (just the second homer of the first two days of the Area Codes) to left off lefthander Matthew Gatewood. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Jackson impressed scouts with his quick hands and ability to pull balls with authority.
"I was just looking for pitches to hit. Opposite-field hits are just as good as pull hits," Jackson said. "It's a really good feeling, knowing I was able to help my team out by hitting a home run. Everything about it, it's just an amazing feeling."
The two teams combined for just five hits in the game, and Jackson had two of them in his only two at-bats. Otherwise, pitching was the story. [...] Continue Reading »
LONG BEACH, Calif.—By the end of the first day of the Area Code Games, scouts were chattering that they'll be spending plenty of time next spring in Sweeny, Texas. So in that sense, Corey Simpson put his home town on the map Sunday.
Simpson, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound righthanded slugger, stole the show at Blair Field in the first day of one of the premier events on the summer amateur circuit. In four trips to the plate, he went 2-for-3 with four RBIs, leading the Rangers (representing Texas and Louisiana) to a come-from-behind 5-4 win against the Reds (the Four Corners and Hawaii).
A first baseman/catcher committed to Houston, Simpson lined a sacrifice fly to center field in the first inning, then drove a fastball into the right-center gap for an RBI double in the third. But he saved his best for last, crushing a towering two-run homer to dead-center on an 89 mph fastball from Ryan Castellani in the eighth. Even college players swinging metal bats seldom hit home runs in spacious Blair Field—to any part of the park—so Simpson's majestic shot to center field with wood drew plenty of oohs and ahhs.
"They'd been throwing me fastballs first pitch every time, and I was taking them the whole time," Simpson said. "So I knew they were going to come with the fastball again. They just left it right down the pike, and I took it yard. To tell you the truth, I really didn't know if it was gone or not."
Everyone else knew as soon as it came off the bat. [...] Continue Reading »
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