The second annual USA Baseball National High School Invitational, presented by Baseball America, is set for March 27-30 and the tournament field is made up of 16 teams from 10 different states. The event will be held at the USA Baseball National Training Complex and is hosted by the Town of Cary with the The Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance partnering as a presenting sponsor too.
Returning from the inaugural event are Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.) and Harvard-Westlake High (Studio City, Calif.), the two teams from last year’s inaugural championship game that was decided in extra innings. Mater Dei trailed 2-1 going into the seventh, but tied it up on a home run and walked off in the eighth to claim the first NHSI title.
Just like last year’s event, the outcome will have a strong effect on the national rankings while also providing scouts a look at some top draft prospects in highly competitive scenarios. Nine players from Baseball America’s Top 100 High School Prospects will compete, including four in the top 20 and the country’s top overall player in outfielder Austin Meadows (Grayson HS, Loganville, Ga.) as well as the top righthander—Jordan Sheffield (No. 7 overall; Tullahoma, Tenn., HS).
Listed in alphabetical order below is the tournament field with a short capsule on each team as well as a list of the top 10 prospects that will be at the event.
Bingham HS, South Jordan, Utah
It’s hard to argue against Bingham’s case as the top program in Utah and the Miners expect to be in the thick of a state championship run yet again. They finished fourth in the state in 2012 with a 24-6 record and first-place finish at the USA Classic in Tennessee. Head coach Joel Sato has been at the helm since 1993 and has a record of 362-162.
“As in past years, we’ll be expecting the remaining senior class to step into leadership and playing roles,” Sato said.
The Miners have 20 state championships in their history, with at least one title in eight different decades. They’re also familiar with venturing outside state lines to play having played in out of state tournaments since 1981—most notably the USA Classic, Hard 9 National Classic in California and Big League Dugout National Invitational in Arizona. Last year’s team boasted righthander Brady Lail, an Arizona commit that signed with the Yankees as a 12th-rounder for $225,000.
|2013 NHSI Top 10 Prospects|
|1. Austin Meadows, of, Grayson|
|2. Jordan Sheffield, rhp, Tullahoma|
|3. Stephen Gonsalves, lhp, Cathedral Catholic|
|4. Nick Ciuffo, c, Lexington|
|5. Chris Okey, c, Eustis|
|6. Jack Flaherty, rhp/if, Harvard-Westlake*|
|7. Jeremy Martinez, c, Mater Dei|
|8. Ryan McMahon, 3b, Mater Dei|
|9. Justus Sheffield, lhp, Tullahoma*|
|10. Nick Longhi, of, Venice|
|*2014 Class Member|
Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego
Keys to winning a major tournament include pitching depth and big game experience, which should make the Dons one of the early favorites to win the NHSI and contend for a national championship. They won the San Diego Section title for Division 3 in 2012 and return all 30 wins on the pitching staff. Five pitchers are committed to major D-I programs including lefthander Stephen Gonsavles, a gold medal winner on the 2012 18-and-under Team USA squad and potential first-round draft pick for 2013. Ranked No. 13 among high school prospects, he went 9-0, 1.91 with 79 strikeouts and 20 walks in 66 innings last season while also hitting .348 with 11 RBIs. He is committed to San Diego. Lefthander Brady Aiken, a junior, is verbally committed to UCLA as a junior and a prospect to watch for 2014. He went 6-1, 1.32 with 69 strikeouts and 18 walks in 48 innings last season. Righthanders Michael Martin (UC Irvine), Alex Schick (California) and lefthander Andrew Wright (Pepperdine) fill out the rest of the staff. Martin provided a nice righthanded complement to Gonsalves and Aiken last season by going 7-2, 0.90 with 72 strikeouts and only eight walks in 62 innings. The Dons have dominated their section since 2000, winning titles in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 and boast alumni such as Carlos Quentin, Mark Prior and Barry Zito.
Christian Brothers HS, Memphis
With 10 state titles, Christian Brothers is a perennial contender in Tennessee and finished third in the state in 2012. Five starters return from that team and will be led by a pair of pitchers verbally committed to D-I programs. John Wesley Ray (Mississippi) and Corey Herndon (Arkansas), both juniors, will anchor the pitching staff while catcher Tyler Lawrence (Murray State) and outfielder Chris Carrier will lead the offense. Head coach Buster Kelso, who holds a career record of 869-252, cites defense, pitching depth and speed as the Purple Wave’s strengths as it tries to follow up a 28-13 finish in 2012 with another run at the state playoffs.
Eustis (Fla.) HS
Scouts will follow Eustis closely in 2013 with catcher Chris Okey (No. 26 prospect) being an early-round prospect, but the Panthers plan on avenging an early departure in the 2012 postseason. Six starters return to a team that should be among the top contenders for a 5-A state title. Okey, a Clemson signee and Team USA veteran, hit .386 with three home runs and 29 RBIs in 2012 and will lead the offense. He will also be the battery mate to lefthanded ace Alex Hagner, a Florida signee who went 7-1, 1.67 with 60 strikeouts in 2012. Eustis won state titles in 2000 and 2003 and has had six players drafted since 1999.
Florida Christian School, Miami
Region finalists in 2012, the Patriots are amidst a coaching transition as the well-respected Ernie Padron stepped down in the fall for personal reasons. Longtime assistant Chris Brigman has taken over as head coach and has pitching depth as his top strength for 2013. Lefthander Christian Pelaez, committed to Louisiana State, is the staff ace and is known for his pitchability. Fellow senior southpaw Andrew George is committed to UNC Greensboro.
Grayson HS, Loganville, Ga.
With Austin Meadows patrolling the outfield and powering the lineup, the Rams might be the most-watched high school team in the country this spring. However, Meadows’ draft status will be an afterthought to a team returning eight starters from a final four loss to 2012 NHSI participant Brookwood High (Snellville, Ga.) Grayson is hunting a Georgia 6-A state title with Meadows and four other D-I players as well as a D-II signee and another player committed to play football at Arizona. Grayson’s program is just 12 years old, but has been to the state playoffs 11 times. Pitchers Taylor Allum (Kennesaw State), Korey Anderson (Western Carolina) and Jack Banda (Arizona, football) combined to go 15-4 in 2012 and Banda owned the highest ERA at 2.18. Meadows hit .390 with four home runs and will likely be avoided by opposing pitchers so it will be important for others to build on a successful 2012 campaign. Allum, Anderson and Banda play both ways and shortstop Brandon Benson (Georgia College and State University) provides some offensive support.
Jed Hixson is in his first season as head coach after eight as an assistant, but doesn’t expect the Rams to miss a beat.
“We expect to be right back in the mix for a region title and 6-A Georgia state title,” he said. “Our expectations are high because of our success last year and the return of sixteen players from last year’s final four. We feel like our talent and experience will help us to persevere throughout the season and win a lot of games.”
Hamilton HS, Chandler, Ariz.
Hamilton High opened its doors in 1998 and the Huskies’ first baseball season was in the spring of 1999 when they went 5-24. Since then, they’ve won fewer than 20 games just once, posting 12 20-win seasons and claiming state titles in 2003, 2004 and 2008. Mike Woods has been the head coach since the program’s inception, compiling a 321-147 record. The Huskies went 23-9 in 2012, finishing fourth in Arizona’s highest classification. Six regulars and most of the pitching staff return from that team. First baseman/lefthander Cody Bellinger (Oregon) hit .447 with four home runs and 31 RBIs last season so he’ll be relied upon to make up for the loss of Mitch Nay, who signed with the Blue Jays for $1 million as the 58th overall pick. Hamilton’s pitching staff is led by two D-I arms in righthanders Sean Rackoski (Kansas) and Patrick Murphy (Oregon). They combined for 91 innings last year and both went 5-1. Rackoski sported a 1.20 ERA while Murphy finished at 2.66. However, Murphy may be unavailable because of an injury. Outfielder Ryan Peep, a talented junior according to Woods, is verbally committed to Arizona State and expected to contribute in his first varsity season.
Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif.
Even with Lucas Giolito, the top righthander in the 2012 draft class, out with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament, the Wolverines made it to the finals of the 2012 NHSI and had a lead going into the seventh inning before losing in extra innings to Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.). The pitching horses, Giolito and lefty Max Fried, are gone, but most of the offense returns and the highly touted Jack Flaherty has another year of experience under his belt. A potential top prospect for 2014, Flaherty recently announced his verbal commitment to North Carolina and is a major factor on offense and the mound. He’ll be the ace while hitting in the middle of the lineup. Also back is righthander Hans Hansen (Emory), who stepped up big in a win over American Heritage High (Plantation, Fla.) in the semifinals of the last year’s event. Along with Flaherty, catcher Arden Pabst (Georgia Tech) and first baseman Joe Corrigan (Southern California) will pace the offense.
“Flaherty and Hansen have proven they can get tons of outs,” head coach Matt LaCour said. “A big key for our team is the development of (righthanders) Conor Cuse and Alex Horowitz on the mound. Cuse has plus stuff, used to be all over the place, but has shown way better control this fall that is really promising. We should be more offensive this year than in the past with the usual cast making steady improvement.”
Jenks (Okla.) HS
The Trojans have 16 players back from a squad that made it to Oklahoma’s 6-A state quarterfinals in 2012 and boasted seven all-conference selections. Their staff ace, righthander Thomas Hatch (No. 95), went 7-2 with 64 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 42 innings and returns for his final season before heading to Oklahoma State or signing out of the draft. Jenks’ pitchers are stingy with free passes. Hatch will be backed by junior righthander Bryce Ward, an Oral Roberts signee who allowed just seven walks in 38 innings last season while going 6-2 with 43 strikeouts. The offense has three D-I signees and one player headed to Connors State (Okla.) JC. Infielder Trey Michalczewski (Oklahoma) hit .397 with six home runs and 37 RBIs in 2012. He’ll anchor the lineup with senior outfielder Grant Maxey (Central Arkansas), senior third baseman Derek Brumble (Connors State) and junior shortstop Alan Beer (Texas Christian) providing support.
“We boast a strong pitching staff with power arms and return our entire lineup from 2012,” head coach Dennis Keeley said.
Lexington (S.C.) HS
Lexington went 10-15 in 2011 before Brian Hucks took over as the head coach for the 2012 season. Hucks had a successful run in 12 seasons with Brookland-Cayce High (Cayce, S.C.) and immediately turned things around for the Wildcats. They went 27-4 in 2012, falling one win short of the state championship game. Hucks won the 4-A coach of the year award and is now in his second season and returns six starting position players and four pitchers. While the Wildcats’ best hitter graduated, catcher Nick Ciuffo (No. 19), an early-round prospect for the 2013 draft and South Carolina signee, will now lead the offense. Lefthander Josh Reagan is uncommitted, but went 7-0, 1.02 in 62 innings last year while lefty Cole McMillan went 6-1, 2.24 in 34 innings. He is committed to South Carolina.
“This will be one of the most challenging schedules I have put together, but I believe that is how you prepare your teams for the playoffs,” Hucks said.
Mater Dei HS, Santa Ana, Calif.
The defending champions of the inaugural NHSI, the Monarchs were marching toward a national championship before being upset in the semifinals of the Southern Section playoffs. They lost a key player in outfielder/righthander Ty Moore, but six other starters return, including catcher Jeremy Martinez (No. 31) and third baseman Ryan McMahon (No. 66). Both are Southern California signees and among the Top 100 High School Prospects for the 2013 draft. They will lead the offense. Martinez hit .388 with 18 RBIs last season while McMahon burst onto the prospect scene at last year’s event and finished the year with a .356 average, four home runs and 23 RBIs. Brandon Perez also introduced himself to talent evaluators as a freshman with good defense at shortstop. He hit .230 with 10 RBIs, but should benefit from another year of development and is already verbally committed to Oregon. Outfielder Austin Grebeck (Oregon) showed improvements on the showcase circuit this summer as well. Offense doesn’t seem to be an issue even with Moore now at UCLA, but replacing his work on the mound might be a question. However, righthander/first baseman Davis Tominaga shut down Bishop Gorman High (Las Vegas) last spring and recently committed to Portland. He went 6-2, 3.05 and head coach Burt Call is confident in his abilities as well as junior righthander Charlie Vorsheck (5-1, 4.76).
Milton (Ga.) HS
The Eagles made a strong playoff run in 2012 with a cast of mostly sophomores and juniors so they’re in a good position to contend for the next couple of seasons. They lost just one starting pitcher to graduation and one position player moved to California. Everyone else is back to build on a 25-7 season that ended in the second round of the state tournament. Righthanders Matt Phillips (Georgia Tech) and Payton Smith (Appalachian State) lead a pitching staff that had a 2.22 ERA in 2012. Three position players are committed to D-I colleges now and some underclassmen are likely to commit in the future. The offense will rely on three juniors—outfielders Dalton Ewing (Clemson) and Ryan Gridley (Mississippi State) and infielder Dylan Cease. Both are well-regarded prospects in their class with good tools. Cease also pitches and can reportedly reach the low 90s.
“Our strength, other than returning eight position players, is our pitching,” head coach Joey Ray said. “Senior righthanders Matt Phillips and Payton Smith, along with a very promising group of junior pitchers including Dylan Cease and Alex Schnell, give us a very strong core of arms. If we get the pitching and defensive play we expect, along with timely hitting, we feel we can compete with anyone.
Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.
One of the state’s top programs, Roberson boasts Major League alumni in Cameron Maybin, Chris Narveson and Darren Holmes as well as players like Justin Jackson (Blue Jays) and Joel McKeithan (Vanderbilt). The Rams have three state championships, two coming in 2000 and 2002, and will be in contention again this season. Five players are committed to D-I schools with outfielder/lefthander Braxton Davidson (North Carolina) and catcher Dominick Cammarata (Georgia) getting the most attention from evaluators. Both are juniors and should be the main strength on offense. Davidson hit .316 with eight home runs in 79 at-bats last season while Cammarata hit .294 with three home runs and 21 RBIs. Righthander/catcher Parker Johnson (Wake Forest) is the team’s No. 1 starter and has Davidson, junior righthander Katon Harwood (Clemson) and senior first baseman/lefthander Nathan Blaylock (Liberty) to provide depth on the mound. Johnson went 7-1, 1.33 in 53 innings with 86 strikeouts and 24 walks.
Tullahoma (Tenn.) HS
If Tullahoma can scratch out one run in two of its games, that may be enough to advance. The Wildcats have a pitching duo in Jordan and Justus Sheffield that will be followed closely this year and next. The elder Sheffield, righty Jordan, is committed to Vanderbilt and flew up prospect boards after a one-inning stint in the fall in which he didn’t throw a fastball below 95 mph. He went 6-1, 0.99 in 2012 with 73 strikeouts and 24 walks in 50 innings. His younger brother, Justus, is verbally committed to Vanderbilt and comes at hitters from the left side. His stuff is more modest right now, but so was Jordan’s just a few months ago. Justus went 9-1, 0.79 in 53 innings while striking out 96 and walking 26. Both also play the field, Jordan at shortstop and Justus in center field, and will be the center of the offense. Jordan hit .373 with five home runs and 17 RBIs while Justus hit .311 with two home runs and 27 RBIs.
Venice (Fla.) HS
The 7-A state champions in Florida last season, the Indians return six starters, including a Top 100 High School prospect and Louisiana State signee in Nick Longhi (No. 69). He hit .330 with 16 RBIs in 2012 and can also get on the mound where shows good arm strength. Righthander Cooper Hammond has a submarine delivery and went 10-1, 0.56 with six saves in 2012. With Hammond, a Miami signee, and righthander Tyson Albert returning, Venice has a majority of its innings back for another run at a state championship. The Indians did lose two of their top hitters, but Longhi and outfielder/righthander Brandon Elmy (.352, 20 RBIs) provide a good foundation.
The Woodlands (Texas) HS
The Highlanders won state championships in 2000 and 2006, with the latter also netting a Baseball America National Championship. One of Texas’ stronger programs, The Woodlands has a shot at the top again. After going 24-9 and winning a ninth district title 10 years, the Highlanders were bounced in the bidistrict round of the Texas playoffs. Five seniors are committed to D-I programs and sophomore righthander/infielder Chris Andritsos has shown excellent potential. Lefty Ryan Burnett (Texas Christian) will step in as the No. 1 with Kevin McCanna graduating and now pitching at Rice. Burnett went 6-1 and struck out 53 in 38 innings in 2012. Catcher Alex Dunlap (Stanford), who hit .370 with six home runs and 32 RBIs last season, will lead the offense with support from third baseman Carter Hope (Oklahoma State) and Charlie Warren (Rice). Righthander Brandon Miles (Houston) was used in relief last season and will compete for a sport in the starting rotation as will Hope.
“We need to continue the strong defense and pitching we finished the season with last year and get better at our ability to score runs,” head coach Ron Eastman said. “Finding a solid middle infield was a top priority this fall and we had a couple guys step up.”