Three games into the 2012 Prospect Classic and the highlights are still about the Collegiate National Team. Aside from a couple lopsided innings in Game Two, the 18U National Team has held its own in the series, but the college players have stood out the most mostly because of their advanced experience and a crop of preps that scouts feel is down from recent years.
Game Three highlights belonged to infielder Trea Turner (North Carolina State) and righthander Bobby Wahl (Mississippi). Wahl was a known entity in high school and ranked 68th on the Preseason High School Top 100 in 2010—just four spots behind Monday starter Adam Plutko (UCLA). But he had a lackluster spring, admitting that he got caught up in the draft talk, and fell to the 39th round. He honored his commitment to Ole Miss and made 18 appearances (one start). He logged four saves and went 0-2, 4.80 with 26 strikeouts, 11 walks and 33 hits allowed in 30 innings. After his freshman season he went to the Cape Cod League and pitched out of the bullpen for Cotuit and went 1-1, 1.23 in 16 appearances with six saves. In 22 innings, he allowed 15 hits and 11 walks while striking out 38. That summer he learned some valuable lessons and took them back to Ole Miss.
“For my freshman year, I didn’t really pitch that well,” Wahl said. “Going up to the Cape, that was a huge thing for me. I learned so much up there. I took that into my sophomore year. It’s not all about throwing as hard as you can. You can’t get away with that in college. It’s about locating your pitches, all of your pitches for strikes and making quality pitches and letting your defense work. That was the biggest adjustment. And mentally, when you think that way, it’s a lot easier.”
Wahl was a team captain and the Rebels’ ace as a sophomore and went 7-4, 2.55 with 104 strikeouts and 32 walks in 99 innings. He beat Texas Christian in Ole Miss’ first game at the College Station Regional by pitching seven innings and allowing two runs on four hits while walking none and striking out nine. He came back on two days’ rest and lost as Ole Miss was eliminated, but he’s carried his success over to Team USA this summer.
For the last two games of the Prospect Classic, the teams are split up between Collegiate and 18U players, but the pitchers throw against their respective teams. So Wahl came on in relief against his college counterparts for two innings Monday night. He struck out five, allowed two hits and a walk, but escaped a bases loaded jam in the fifth inning. He struck out outfielder Austin Cousino (Kentucky), allowed a single to outfielder Michael Lorenzen (Cal State Fullerton) and struck out catcher Reese McGuire (18U and Collegiate catchers were paired with their respective pitching teammates) before walking shortstop Adam Frazier and giving up a hit to Turner. But with the bases loaded, Wahl finished off outfielder Johnny Field with a strikeout to escape.
“I felt pretty good,” Wahl said. “The biggest thing for me was I was just trying to pitch and locate all my pitches. The positive I can take from that outing is everything was down for the most part. I had an idea of everything and where it was going. I was putting it where I wanted to.”
Wahl had a perfect inning in the sixth, getting a groundout and two strikeouts. He’s now thrown 4 1/3 innings over three appearances for Team USA this summer and has struck out 10 while walking two and allowing just three hits. He is yet to surrender a run. Wahl’s fastball sat 91-93 mph and he mixed in a hard slider in the mid 80s that shows excellent potential. He also mixed in a low-80s changeup.
• North Carolina State shortstop Turner went 2-for-3 on the night with a walk, a triple and two runs scored.
“I was trying to stay short,” Turner said about the triple. “It was a hit and run, so I was just trying to stay short and up the middle. I got a got pitch to hit and got it over the center fielder’s head.”
With the game taking place at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, there were plenty of NC State fans in attendance and the loudest cheers of the night were when Turner was up to bat.
“I got in the box my first at-bat and everybody was cheering and it was like I was playing at home,” Turner said. “It was awesome to see all the NC State fans come out and support me and Carlos (Rodon) and the rest of the USA team. It felt really good to hear all that as soon as I got in the box.”
As one of the few rising sophomores on the team, it’s clear that Turner hasn’t spent as much time in the weight room as some of the other players and he’s still adjusting to hitting with wood bats.
“I’m just trying to get my timing down and not chase pitches,” Turner said. “I broke a wood bat today in one of my at-bats, so I’m just trying to square up the ball a lot more than I would with metal, I guess. I’m making sure to put good swings on quality pitches because we’re facing the best of the best, obviously.”
• Cal State Fullerton outfielder Michael Lorenzen continues to play well. He went 2-for-4 on the night with a triple and made a nice catch in center field, covering a lot of ground to track down a ball deep in the right-center gap.
• The 18U pitchers held the hitters to just three hits and allowed one walk. Lefthander Rob Kaminsky got the start and pitched two innings. He allowed one hit and one walk while striking out two. Righthander Logan Shore closed the door in the seventh by striking out the side.
• Tuesday will be the last game of the Prospect Classic. Lefthander Carlos Rodon will start for the Collegiate team while the 18U side will counter with righthander Keegan Thompson.
CONTRIBUTING: Conor Glassey