SAN DIEGO—The road to the Perfect Game Home Run Challenge ran through Georgia again this year when Peach Stater Brandt Stallings defeated fellow Georgia native Isiah Gilliam in the final round to claim the title, one year after Michael Chavis emerged victorious.
The preliminary rounds of the Challenge were held Saturday at the University of San Diego’s Fowler Field when four players emerged to the final grouping that would compete in Petco Park prior to the All-American Classic.
Stallings altered his approach heading into the finals after not hitting a home run at the Area Code Games Home Run Derby when his load got deeper and his swing path got considerably more uphill, producing many infield flies and towering flyouts.
“I was really hoping that the outcome of this Home Run Derby would not be the same as the ACG Home Run Derby,” Stallings said. “I couldn’t make solid contact with the ball at ACG. That was the first HR Derby I have ever been in, so I tried dipping a little more to get more elevation under the ball. So I came out here and took a little less off my swing and focused more on squaring the ball up. I tried some different things with my stance and swing that I probably shouldn’t have because if what was working for me in BP was working for me. I should have stuck with that. Today it worked.”
Stallings hit two out in the quarterfinals, as did Gilliam, while other semifinalists Brendan Rodgers finished with zero and MLB Junior Select Home Run Derby champion Luken Baker finished with one.
Each hitter was given five outs in the finals with Gilliam the first to swing. The switch-hitting Gilliam hit righthanded in the semifinals and hit one ball into the third deck of the warehouse down the left field line. He switched to lefthanded in the finals and did not hit a ball out.
“To be in a championship with him and have him not hit one is a little terrifying to be completely honest,” Stallings said. “That put the onus on me.”
The righthanded-hitting Stallings won the Challenge on his first swing with a drive to deep left field that had a majestic trajectory.
“I tried to put a good swing on it and I tried to use my legs more,” Stallings said. “I had to use my legs more because if I can’t use those than that ball is not going to get out. This field is huge. I hit a couple of balls that would have went out on any other field, but they stayed in on this one.”
|HOME RUN DERBY WINNERS|
|2013: Michael Chavis|
|2012: Justin Williams|
|2011: Nelson Rodriguez|
|2010: Francisco Lindor|
|2009: Yordy Cabrera|
|2008: Matt Davidson|
|2007: (tie) Destin Hood, Ethan Martin|
|2006: Cameron Rupp|
|2005: Robby Alcombrack|
|2004: Jordan Danks|
|2003: Eric Campbell|
The 6-foot-4, 216-pound Stallings has a large, strong and athletic build and offers bat speed and natural leverage in his easy, pull-oriented stroke that initiates with a toe tap. His plus raw pull power is some of the best in the prep class. His defensive skill set likely fits best at first base or left field.
He hit balls off the middle of the scoreboard at NBT Stadium during East Coast Pro, and he provided one of the signature moments of the showcase circuit this summer. The Braves (Georgia) were down 4-2 to the Cubs heading into the seventh inning, when, facing Riley Thompson‘s low-90s velocity, Stallings hit a walkoff grand slam to left field to give the Braves a 6-4 victory.