The final game for this year’s Prospect Classic ended in a 6-6 tie, but there were several standout performances. . .
• Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto went 3-for-4 in the game with a double.
“I’m seeing the ball really well right now, especially against some really good pitchers,” Conforto said. “I couldn’t ask for a better game today and I’m feeling really good.”
Hitting well is nothing new for Conforto, who hit .349/.438/.601 as a freshman last season, while leading the Pacific 12 conference in home runs with 13.
“He’s got a great swing and. . . when you drive in 76 runs or whatever it ended up being in the Northwest, that’s legit,” Oregon head coach and Team USA assistant coach George Horton said. “We’re in the same state, so we follow each other closely and those RBIs were clutch RBIs, as well. He hit third against right and lefthanded pitchers and, unfortunately, we’re going to have to figure out a way to get him out the next couple years, but it’s good to have him in my dugout.
“He’s a tremendous player who has a bright future.”
The final two games of the Prospect Classic this year still pitted the College National Team against the 18-and-under team, but with a small tweak: college hitters still had to face college pitchers and high school hitters got to face high school pitchers.
Conforto had his work cut out for him tonight, as he had to face North Carolina State lefthander Carlos Rodon, Arizona State righthander Trevor Williams, Oregon State righthander Dan Child and UCLA righthander David Berg.
“Rodon has probably the best cutter I’ve ever seen,” Conforto said. “I haven’t seen a pitch like that in my career. Berg obviously has some nasty sink coming from a weird arm slot. I’ve faced Trevor and I’ve seen Dan, they’re all great guys and that’s why they’re here. It’s awesome to be able to play against these guys.”
Conforto has been playing with a noticeable limp and is frequently lifted for a courtesy runner in the exhibition games.
He fouled a ball off his right shin during a series against Stanford (May 4-6) that resulted in a fracture that wasn’t discovered until nearly a month later, after the Baton Rouge regional.
“My shin’s a little sore, but I talked to a couple doctors and they said that it’s not going to get any worse, it’s just a matter of playing with the pain or not,” Conforto said. “It’s getting better everyday. They’re not having me run because they just want it to get healed a little quicker. Obviously in Cuba we’re not going to be able to do that. But it’s feeling good and obviously it’s not affecting my hitting too much.”
• Fitting in with the 4th of July festivities around the ballpark, Williams came out cooking with gas.
His fastball sat in the 92-94 mph range and he touched 95 and the pitch had some late life, as well. While he mostly threw fastballs, Williams showed four distinct pitches: a sharp slider in the 80-82 mph range, a 12-to-6 curveball around 76 mph and an 80 mph changeup.
Williams gave up one run (unearned) on two hits with no walks and one strikeout over two innings of work.
“I felt a lot better than my other two outings,” Williams said. “I felt like I was in control of my pitches. My slider was working really well for me today. I was pitching in and my two-seamer was really going and I felt like I was popping the glove pretty hard.”
The slider is a newer pitch for Williams and he said he uses it differently than his other breaking ball.
“What I’ve been working on this year is getting a wipeout pitch with my slider,” Williams said. “My curveball is a pitch I can throw for a strike. I can throw it 0-0, I can throw it 3-2 or I can throw it 3-0. So, this year I was really trying to develop a slider since I was going into that starting role. I can throw the slider for a strike now, but it’s more of that wipeout pitch.”
• When a new 18U pitcher entered in the second inning, some didn’t recognize him at first. With a throwback type delivery where his hands separate early, reach back and regroup at his balance point, lefthander Stephen Gonsalves (Cathedral Catholic High, San Diego) raised some eyebrows. Working with Team USA pitching coach Jim Lawler, Gonsalves altered his windup to get more momentum toward the plate. It’s very new to him as he only tried it on flat ground the day before the game, but Gonsalves breezed through his one inning of work, striking out two.
“It was all old school,” Gonsalves said. “I have a big arm circle in the back and starting it up higher is helping me out. It’s a lot more clear going through. It’s giving me more momentum toward the plate.
“I felt very comfortable. Just changing the momentum was the big thing, but the arm slot was only a couple inches higher so everything else stayed pretty much the same. The momentum moving to the plate helped me out.”
Gonsalves threw 13 pitches in the inning, eight for strikes. He sat 90-91 and mixed in a good curveball in the low 70s.
• Infielder Cavan Biggio (St. Thomas High, Houston) has been a consistent performer in the last two weeks of Team USA events. He’s made solid contact throughout, but put an exclamation point on his time in North Carolina in the fifth inning of the final Prospect Classic contest. With the Stripes down 4-1, Biggio stepped up with the bases loaded and no outs. Righthander Kevin Davis (Miller High, Brewton, Ala.) was on the hill throwing in the low 90s, but having trouble throwing strikes.
“He walked the batter before on five pitches and missed with his first fastball so I knew he was going to come back with another fastball,” Biggio said.
Biggio was right and connected for a grand slam that landed in the first row of the right field seats and gave the Stripes a 5-4 lead.
“It felt great,” he said. “We were down at the time and I was just trying to get a deep fly ball to get the run in and I put a good bat on the ball.”
Between the Tournament of Stars, 18U Trials and Prospect Classic, Biggio collected three doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs for a .364/.474/.636 line in 33 at-bats.
• For the second straight night, Cal State Fullerton center fielder Michael Lorenzen registered a multi-hit game. The righthanded hitting Lorenzen pulled a Carlos Rodon fastball through the left side of the infield and drove a 92-mph fastball from righthander Trevor Williams back up the middle for a pair of singles. The 20-year-old has very strong arm and projectable 6-foot-3, 195-pound body scouts can dream on.
• In his lone appearance of the Prospect Classic, Oregon righthander Jake Reed pitched two scoreless innings and allowed one hitter to reach base. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Reed pounded the zone with an 89-91 mph fastball and 79-81 mph slider from a low arm slot. He hid the ball well and generated good movement on his fastball and produced four of his six outs via the groundball.
Contributing: Clint Longenecker and Nathan Rode