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.
The two lefthanders who started the game were also the two most impressive pitchers of the day, which featured three games. San Diego commit Ian Clarkin (San Diego) went three scoreless innings for the Brewers, striking out five and allowing just one hit. His 88-91 fastball bumped 92, and his 80 mph changeup had good arm speed and fade. He used that pitch effectively against righties, and gave lefties trouble with his big-breaking 73 mph curveball. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Clarkin said he left his fastball up more than he liked, but he was able to pitch inside against righties well.
“Against those righthanded batters, I knew some of those kids, I knew they were slap hitters, they go to right field a lot,” Clarkin said. “So if you come inside, they’re either not going to swing at it or not going to get around on it, so that’s kind of what I work on with righties.”
The White Sox countered with projectable 6-foot-6, 180-pound southpaw Trey Ball (New Castle, Ind.), who struck out three over three scoreless frames, also yielding just one hit. The Texas recruit figures to add velocity to his 87-89 mph frame as he fills out, and he already has excellent feel for his 82-83 changeup with good bottom. He also flashed a promising curveball in the 75-77 range.
AREA CODE NOTES
• The most lopsided game of the tournament so far was Monday’s first game between the Nationals (Southeast) and the Yankees (Northeast)—a 12-3 win for the Nationals. Catcher Ronnie Healy (Jupiter, Fla.) had a mammoth day for the Nationals, ripping a two-run double to right in the fifth, then adding a two-run triple to right in the seventh. Healy boxed some balls behind the plate, but his powerful lefthanded bat lived up to its billing.
Louisiana State recruit Nick Longhi (Venice, Fla.) also had a nice day hitting right in front of Healy, in the Nationals’ No. 3 hole. Longhi capped a five-run third-inning rally against fellow LSU commit Tyler Allen with a two-run single to right.
“I was looking for a curveball actually, and he left me a fastball up,” said Longhi, a physical 6-foot-2, 205-pound two-way talent with a pretty lefthanded stroke. “He’s a good pitcher, a smart pitcher, and he surprised me. He threw exactly the opposite of what I thought, I just happened to get a barrel on it.”
Longhi added a run in the fifth and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
• Sunday’s big standout, Rangers slugger Corey Simpson (Sweeny, Texas), kept on mashing. He smacked a two-run double to the warning track in dead-center against John Pomeroy in the fifth inning of a 5-3 win against the Royals.
• Like Simpson, Rangers shortstop Eric Garza (San Antonio) looked good for the second straight day. He stayed back on a curveball and delivered an RBI single into the left-field corner in the third, then walked and scored in the fifth. He stood out more of his defense Sunday, but on Monday the nascent switch-hitter showed he can swing the bat from the right side.
• Royals leadoff man Mason Smith (Meridian, Idaho) reached base in all four plate appearances, including a single through the left side in the sixth and a triple to left-center in the seventh. The Utah recruit showed a nice stroke from the right side.
• The Rangers rolled out more quality arms Monday, starting with righthander Dominic Taccolini (Sugar Land, Texas). The Arkansas commit recorded four groundball outs in two innings thanks to his heavy 89-91 mph fastball, and he mixed in a 76-78 breaking ball effectively.
Six-foot-4 lefthander Brandon Gilson (Prosper, Texas) followed with two hitless innings, striking out four. The Texas Christian recruit worked in the 87-89 range with good angle and mixed in a 78-80 slurve.
The tallest player on the Rangers roster, 6-foot-7 righty Casey Meisner (Cypress, Texas), also stood out in his first inning of work, though he ran into some trouble thereafter. The Texas Tech recruit worked in the 88-91 range with his fastball, flashed a tight 11-to-5 curve in the 74-76 range and a developing change at 76-79.