By Alexis Brudnicki and Jim Shonerd
As games finish throughout the day, check this post for final scores, wrap-ups and postgame quotes.
Sarasota (Fla.) High 14, Lee County High (Sanford, N.C.) 2
Sarasota chased Lee County starter Nick Durazo out of the first game of NHSI action on Thursday, and got to the Yellow Jackets bullpen for nine late runs in a 14-2 win for the Sailors.
Durazo went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on just two hits, walking five and striking out five. The lefthander kept his team in the game for five frames before Sarasota ran away with the game.
"They committed a couple of mistakes that kind of opened the door for us and allowed us to get into their bullpen," Sarasota head coach Clyde Metcalf said. "And their starter did a great job. He makes his pitches well and he kept us off-balance. Once we got into the bullpen we finally got things going. They made a couple crucial mistakes that opened the door for us and we took advantage of them."
The Sailors counterpart, Tyler Leonard, threw a complete game, finishing seven innings, giving up two earned runs on six hits with a walk, a hit batsman and six strikeouts.
Eight different Sarasota players drove runs in, and four of those players notched multiple RBIs, but the most impressive player at the plate for Metcalf was Jason Sierra. The utility player went 1-for-4 with a three-base hit, a walk, a run scored and a run driven in.
"The offensive highlight was probably Jason Sierra's triple," Metcalf said. "He kind of gave us a nice little cushion. We've struggled a little bit on occasion to finish games. It was nice to get four or five runs up."
Derrick Whitaker and Britt McRae bore the brunt of the damage from the Sailors in relief of Durazo. Out of the bullpen the two pitchers combined for 1 1/3 innings, nine runs (six earned), six hits and three walks.
Gulliver Prep (Pinecrest, Fla.) 0, Carroll High (Corpus Christi, Texas) 1
Courtney Hawkins was seemingly the only player the Tigers needed Thursday morning as he threw 5 1/3 innings of shutout baseball and hit a solo home run to take down Gulliver Prep 1-0 in NHSI action.
The righthander struck out nine Raiders batters, walking two and allowing just four hits on the day. Rene Pineda came on in relief of Hawkins and put up all zeros in his 1 1/3 frames of work.
"We didn't do a good job at the plate today and Courtney kind of showed up today," Carroll head coach Lee Yeager said. "It came down to what he did for us really. Our guy came on in relief and held them down a little bit. I think the change in speeds got them off-balance a little bit and gave us a chance."
Ivan Pelaez was equally impressive on the mound for Gulliver Prep, his only mistake being the home run from his counterpart. The lefthander went all six innings, allowing only three hits, walking three and striking out seven Tigers.
"He threw a great game like always," Gulliver Prep head coach Javy Rodriguez said. "One pitch, we left up in the zone and Hawkins hit it out. Besides that, we're still playing 0-0, trying to get a run. I thought we had a lot of opportunities to put runs on and we didn't and we left people on base."
Yeager acknowledged that his team's first-round matchup in the tournament was certainly a tough one, and they may have come away a little lucky with the victory.
"Those guys can play," Yeager said. "Those guys are good. Their hitters are really good. We were just fortunate. They had some opportunities early in the game, they had some runners in scoring position. We just found a way to get out of those jams. You have to tip your hat off to those guys because that could have been easily a 3-1 game. We had our chances too but those guys can play."
Highlands Ranch (Colo.) High 1, Oxford (Ala.) High 7
Jackson Stephens threw seven innings of one-run ball to lead the Oxford Yellow Jackets to a 7-1 victory over Highlands Ranch.
As the top offensive contributor in Wednesday's game for Oxford, Stephens switched places with Tucker Simpson who was on the mound for the Yellow Jackets' first game in the tournament. Simpson went 3-for-3 on Thursday with a double, a run scored and three runs driven in.
Stephens allowed one earned run on five hits, walking two and striking out seven. Oxford head coach Wes Brooks was impressed with not only the way his righthander pitched, but also with the improvements his entire team made at the plate after Wednesday's matchup.
"He was huge today," Brooks said of Stephens. "Throwing all seven innings in a big tournament like this, you want to be able to use him all seven and not have to go to the bullpen because those guys might have to throw tomorrow.
"And then our hitters were more selective at the plate. They didn't swing at the fastball up, whereas yesterday the wind was blowing in and we swung at a lot of fastballs up and popped them up. Early in the game we did here, but we were able to get through some and get some backspin on some and get them into the outfield. Overall, just a great performance."
Brooks also took some time to acknowledge the other half of his battery, the man behind the dish calling the game.
"I can't say enough about Alex Muncher, our catcher," the Yellow Jackets coach said. "We DH for him all the time and all he does is play catcher. He's getting dirty and sweating and he's probably the hardest worker on the team and we're DHing for him and he never gets any credit. But he called a good game as well."
Connor McFadden was on the hill for Highlands Ranch. The righthander went 3 2/3 innings, giving up six runs (three earned) on six hits with four walks and four strikeouts. Connor Butler finished the game out for the Falcons, throwing 2 1/3 frames, allowing one earned run on one hit, walking two and striking out two.
Russell County High (Seale, Ala.) 8, Washington High (New York) 0
Russell County lefthander Rock Rucker delivered four no-hit innings as his Warriors squad breezed to an 8-0 victory against Washington High in a consolation game at the National High School Invitational.
The Warriors scored runs in each of the first four innings to jump out to a 7-0 lead, which was more than enough for Rucker. The 6-foot-5 lefty struggled to stay in the strike zone at times, walking three and hitting one batter, but he induced plenty of weak contact when he did come in the zone, allowing just one ball to be hit out of the infield along with recording three strikeouts.
Rucker wasn’t at 100-percent of his usual self, his velocity sitting in the mid- to upper 80s, but it didn’t prevent him from pitching his team to a win.
“His bicep was a little tender before the start,” Russell County coach Tony Rasmus said, “but he wanted to go out there anyway. Only 85-87 (mph), I think was what he was throwing. But he’s just so good and so big and menacing out there that 85-87 is still good enough to get people out. He did a good job.”
Rucker, who had already thrown a no-hitter in his last start, was pulled after four innings with a no-hitter still intact having thrown 68 pitches.
“The bicep was hurting him,” Rasmus said. “He wanted to stay in there, and I said, ‘Hey guy, don’t hurt yourself out there today. You’ve already shown everybody a little bit.’ So we got him out of there.”
Anfernee Grier started the game in right field for Russell County and finished it out by going the last three innings on the mound. Although Washington’s Randy Rodriguez ended the potential combined no-hitter with a leadoff double in the sixth, that was the Trojans’ only hit of the game. Grier, who also went 2-for-3 with two RBIs at the plate, completed the one-hit shutout with four strikeouts of his own and no walks.
“We swung the bats pretty good,” Rasmus said. “The key to us is making plays in the field and throwing strikes. If we do that, we’re competitive.”
Carroll High (Corpus Christi, Texas) 0, Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.) 12
Mater Dei continued their dominance of the top-ranked teams in the NHSI tournament as they upset Carroll 12-0, ending the game in the fifth inning because of a mercy rule.
Ty Moore paced the Monarchs, throwing four strong innings, giving up four hits, walking one and notching four strikeouts in his part of the shutout. The righthander was equally impressive at the plate, going 1-for-2 with a three-run home run, walking twice and scoring two runs.
"He's probably one of the purest hitters I've seen," Mater Dei head coach Burt Call said. "He can just flat-out hit. And that's going to carry him a long ways. And just his competitiveness helps him on the mound, being able to get us some outs and come through in clutch situations. He's a pretty special player and I've been fortunate to coach him for the last four years so it makes my life a little easier."
Six Monarchs starters had multi-hit games and the team had a total of 16 hits on the day. The offense was highlighted by a seven-run third innng, taking Tigers starter O'Shea Dumes out of the game and forcing Carroll to its bullpen. O'Dumes lasted 2 1/3 innings for Carroll, giving up six earned runs on nine hits, walking one batter.
After taking down Bishop Gorman on Wednesday, Mater Dei has now eliminated the top two teams coming into the tournament. Though it was something Call discussed with his players, he knew that they could stand up to the competition.
"A couple days before the tournament we talked to them and said, 'Hey, you guys have a great opportunity here to really compete against the best high school teams," the Monarchs coach said. "We're prepared. We're just going to go out, compete, and leave our heart on the field and see what happens. And I think they've done that the last two days."
Gulliver Prep (Pinecrest, Fla.) 7, Bishop Gorman High (Las Vegas) 4
Though Joey Gallo was lighting up the radar guns as he took the mound against Gulliver Prep on Thursday afternoon, it was the Raiders who lit up the scoreboard, taking down the Gaels 7-4.
Gallo touched 98 mph in his first pitching performance of the season, but lasted only three innings, allowing five runs (none earned) on five hits, walking two and striking out seven. After facing another tough pitcher in Carroll's Courtney Hawkins earlier in the day, the Raiders had an easier time against the Las Vegas flamethrower.
"The guy throwing for Bishop Gorman, Gallo, was throwing 97, 96. It was unbelievable," Gulliver Prep head coach Javy Rodriguez said. "We woke up and we started putting the bat on the ball. They didn't want to strike out anymore. They wanted to put the bat on the ball, whichever way they had to do it; first pitch, second pitch. We had to make an adjustment. We couldn't keep striking out like we did in the first game. In the first game I thought we left a lot of guys on. In this game, we didn't. We really brought them in, even with two outs. We did what we had to do."
Adrian Marin and Ricky Eusebio, the top two batters in Gulliver Prep's order, paced the offense, each going 2-for-3 and combining for three RBIs and four runs scored. Infielder Eric Neitzel and outfielder Henry Hernandez also notched two hits apiece.
"Neitzel got a couple hits, Ricky got a couple hits," Rodriguez said. "The top of the order really stood out for us. I know Henry led off one inning with a double and then Joe (Dunand) had another hit and that's how we got going and that's how we had a big inning. That's what we have to do."
Gabriel Quevedo got the start for Gulliver Prep and threw five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
American Heritage High (Plantation, Fla.) 4, Brookwood High (Snellville, Ga.) 0
American Heritage pitchers Domenick Mancini and Brandon Diaz combined on a six-hit shutout of Brookwood as the Patriots advanced to the semifinals of the National High School Invitational.
The righthander Mancini came out and attacked with his fastball, retiring the first eight hitters he faced.
“We really tried to establish the zone (with Mancini),” American Heritage coach Bruce Aven said. “Mancini has a plus curveball, but really, he was hitting his spots early with his fastball, and so we just stayed with it.”
Mancini didn’t run into serious trouble until the fifth, when Brookwood put runners on the corners with none out. The Broncos ran themselves out of the inning, however, when Brock Baughcum tried to steal second only to get caught in a rundown and tagged out, followed by Garrett Reynolds, the runner on third, trying to dash home and also getting into a rundown and tagged out.
“The first and third defense, we’ve seen that,” Aven said. “We kinda knew this team had some speed, and they did the first and third thing. You can know (what‘s coming), but you gotta execute, and those are two different things. We played some solid defense today.”
Mancini was pulled after walking the leadoff hitter in the sixth, ending his outing with five strikeouts and two walks, along with four hits allowed in five scoreless innings.
Catcher Zach Collins paced the Patriots offense, going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Patriots left fielder Brandon Vicens didn’t have any hits, but he provided the defensive highlight of the game in the sixth inning.
Trailing 3-0, the Broncos had gone on to load the bases with one out in the sixth against lefthander Diaz, but Vicens turned in a highlight-reel catch when he made a diving grab to his right on a hard-hit ball off the bat of Brookwood’s Ryan Woodard. Diaz escaped the jam by getting Clint Carr to hit a routine fly to right.
Woodard also got the start on the mound for Brookwood and pitched five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits, with four strikeouts and one walk.
Harvard-Westlake High (Studio City, Calif.) 10, Parkview High (Lilburn, Ga.) 3
Max Fried and the Harvard-Westlake Wolverines battled back from an early two-run deficit to take the afternoon matchup by a score of 10-3 on Thursday.
Fried went all seven innings for the Wolverines, giving up three earned runs on five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. Though he ran into some trouble early, he seemingly came back throwing even harder after giving up a pair in the first frame.
"They squared up two balls, the first two batters of the game, which led to two runs in the first," Harvard-Westlake head coach Matt LaCour said. "After that (Fried) kind of settled in with his off-speed pitches for strikes, got ahead in counts, got the fastball down in the zone, and that led to him having a lot of success after that first inning.
"The key point for him was (the fourth) inning where they were on a roll, they had bases loaded, nobody out, a run already in, and he got us in the dugout with a two-run lead. After that, he coasted. He really did a good job."
The lefthander was the beneficiary of some late run support, with LaCour giving credit to the bottom of his batting order.
"Hitters (No.) 5 through 9 did an excellent job today," the Wolverines coach said. "They had quality at-bats, in and out of the box I was really impressed with that group of hitters. They allowed us to kind of sustain momentum while the top of our order got their feet underneath them."
Mac Marshall took the hill for Parkview and went three innings, giving up three earned runs on two hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Hunter Thornton, Austin Fisher and Jordan Kelly all came on in relief for the Panthers and went a combined four frames, giving up seven runs (five earned) on eight hits, walking two.
Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High 3, Sarasota (Fla.) High 5
Sarasota had stellar sophomore pitching in their second game in a row on Thursday, upsetting Orange Lutheran 5-3 to move into the semi-finals at the NSHI tournament.
Evan Mendoza got the start for the Sailors, completing all seven innings, allowing three runs (two earned), scattering seven hits and striking out two batters.
"What he does is he keeps the ball down," Sarasota head coach Clyde Metcalf said. "Evan's naturally a shortstop and when he can stay in the good arm slot his fastball sinks, which it was doing. And he was keeping his curveball and his changeup down in the strike zone. And he's got a really good changeup. He probably threw his changeup about 40 per cent of the time today.
"As long as he's down in the zone we have to rely on our defense to make plays and we finally made that last one to end it. That's his game, that's who he is and he pitched that game today."
Since receiving the invitation to the tournament, Sarasota lost two key players in Dylan White and Cameron Varga, putting them at a disadvantage coming in and surprising some with their two straight victories, including their coach.
"I hate to say that's the truth, but you're probably right," Metcalf said of being surprised at the position his team is in. "We've had two young sophomores out there and they gave us really gutsy performances. Complete games are so big in something like this and to get two complete games is huge.
"We made it tough on Evan today. He threw a beautiful game and we kept trying to make it longer and longer. But both those kids (Mendoza and Tyler Leonard) did a great job and they've been getting better as the year's gone on with experience."
Outfielder Broderick Rodocker led Sarasota's offense going 2-for-3 with a three-run double and a run scored.
Lancers starter Brent Wheatley lasted 2 1/3 innings, giving up five earned runs on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout. Chris Wichmann came on in relief of the righthander and went 3 2/3 frames, allowing just one hit, walking two and striking out three.
Lee County High (Sanford, N.C.) 3, Columbus (Ga.) High 8
Columbus had offensive contributions up and down the lineup to back a good outing from righthander Hunter Swilling as they beat Lee County 8-3 in the last game of NHSI action on Thursday.
Swilling battled control issues at the beginning of the game, but pushed through to finish all seven innings, giving up three runs (one earned) on five hits with two walks and a strikeout. He was backed by an offense that had been shut out in its first game against Orange Lutheran on Wednesday.
"We needed one," Columbus head coach Bobby Howard said of the win. "No doubt about it. We messed up a couple bunt coverages and Swilling was a little wild but he settled down and pitched a great game. We had a couple big hits by (Josh) Lester and (Spencer) Draws early that kept us in the ball game.
"Then (Robin) Geven gave us a big lift off the bench with a leadoff triple and after that they pitched around Kyle (Carter) and then Spencer gets another hit. Of course Pierce (Ressmeyer) came up with a big hit, and Will Kilgore had a big hit too in that same inning, him and Pierce."
Chase Arrington got the start for the Yellow Jackets. The righthander went 4 2/3 frames, giving up five earned runs on seven hits with four walks and six strikeouts. Alex Scott finished the game for Lee County, throwing 1 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on three hits, walking one batter.