The people at Impact Baseball couldn't have asked for a better weekend for their tournament. They were probably a little nervous when there was about an inch of snow on the ground on March 2, but by the weekend, the weather cleared up with the temperature touching 80. In other words . . . perfect baseball weather.
That was a relief, because the 2009 Impact Inivtational on March 7 featured 18 teams from all over North Carolina playing at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. With North Carolina also playing against Clemson at home this weekend, it was a good bang-for-your-buck trip to the Triangle for a few dozen area scouts, crosscheckers and at least six scouting directors that were in attendance.
The day got off to an interesting start when Ragsdale (Jamestown, N.C.) High faced off against Northern Nash (Rocky Mount, N.C.) High. Scouts crowded behind the backstop to get a look at Northern Nash senior lefthander Tyler Joyner, who is committed to East Carolina but it was Ragsdale's relatively-unknown senior righthander, David Coffey (right), that stole the show. Using a low 80s fastball, Coffey pounded the strike zone, got ahead of hitters and relied on the sound defense behind him to throw his first no-hitter.
"It felt really good," Coffey said after the game. "You always see other guys do it and see how excited they are and now I know how that feels."
Ragsdale coach Donnie Maness hopes the start will boost Coffey's confidence this season. Maness said he had plans to use three different pitchers, but realized before he was about to pull Coffey that something special was happening.
"We had 20 or 30 scouts in the stands, so Coffey couldn't have picked a better day for a no-hitter," Maness said. "It was really nice to see him show that new level of maturity that maybe he didn't have last year, to be honest, and to go toe-to-toe against Tyler Joyner . . . this may have been the best thing that happens to us this season, giving him a boost of confidence like that."
Also standing out in the game was Ragsdale junior center fielder DeSean Anderson, who is a compact 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, but is a spark plug at the top of the Tigers' lineup. He knows his role as the team's leadoff hitter, showing a patient approach at the plate and is aggressive on the basepath. He tried a straight steal of home in the game and appeared to get in under the tag, but was called out.
After the first game on Field 3 was complete, Conley (Greenville, N.C.) High played against Mt. Tabor (Winston-Salem, N.C.) High. Scouts showed up to get a look at Mt. Tabor's senior righthander Parker Thomas, but got a little more than they bargained for. Thomas was locked in a picther's duel with Conley sophomore righthander Ryan Gupton.
Thomas, who stands at an imposing 6-foot-5, 225 pounds with broad shoulders sat at 90-91 mph consistently in the first inning and showed a sharp breaking ball that consistently hit 75 mph, as well as a low 80s changeup. His fastball had some riding action to it and jammed several righthanded hitters. Thomas allowed two runs on three hits while striking out four, but Gupton's performance had some deja vu.
Gupton (right) used an 84-86 mph fastball and 71-73 breaking ball with good bite to strike out nine hitters while walking just one. He pitched a complete game, allowing no hits, the second straight no-hitter on Field 3. Conley head coach Jason Mills was beside himself after the game speaking to Gupton's potential. Mills also said Gupton has played summer and fall ball for him and hit 87-88 in a previous Impact Baseball showcase.
Two no-hitters aside, it was still very early in the season for these teams, and many players were shaking off some rust. Ardrey Kell (Charlotte) High senior lefthander Alex Wood took the mound against Watauga (Boone, N.C.) High during the second round of games. Wood has an athletic, 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame that one scout compared to John Halama. Wood, who is committed to Georgia, mostly featured a fastball that sat 86-88 mph and a changeup that was 78-79 with some fade. He'll occasionally work in a slider, especially when he's looking to strike out a lefthanded batter. He has very long arm action, which doesn't allow for a lot of deception, and comes at hitters from a 3/4 arm angle. Wood didn't have much to worry about on the mound, as his offense pounded out 11 runs, utilizing the mercy rule for the win.
Center fielder Ryan Stetson has a lean and athletic build and a compact, line-drive stroke that he'll use next year at Appalachian State. Muscular right fielder Zico Pasut pounded a couple balls up the middle. He has big thighs, a thick neck and stands at a hulking 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds. Therefore, it came as no surprise to learn he's committed to East Carolina as a tight end.
Scouts seemed to come out of the woodwork later in the day when one game pitted outfield Brian Goodwin's Rocky Mount High against Wil Myers' Wesleyan Christian Adacemy. At the same time, Providence (Charlotte) High third baseman Richie Shaffer was playing against Rose (Greenville, N.C.) High on an adjacent field. It was almost comical to watch the herd of scouts move en masse between fields to catch the at-bats of the top prospects at the event.
Myers played all over the place. He started the game at first base, then moved behind the plate for a couple innings, where he displayed soft hands and showed off his arm with a 1.93 pop time. His arm was also on display when he took the mound to finish out the game. He was fooled on a curveball in his first at-bat, waving at the pitch down and away for a strikeout. Despite the pop time, Myers made one mistake behind the plate, air-mailing a pitch out into center field, allowing the runners to move up from first and second, but did catch Goodwin stealing on a pitch out late in the game.
Shaffer moved between first base and third base and showed a good approach at the plate. He smoked a double down the left field line in his first at-bat and in his second trip to the plate he hit a towering fly ball to center field, but the wind kept it in the park and the outfielder caught it on the warning track. The next time up, with droves of scouts on hand, he didn't step outside his game and resisted swinging at bad pitches. He took three balls at the letters to work into a 3-0 count. The next pitch was right down the pipe, but he didn't flinch, instead taking the next pitch at the letters for ball four.
Goodwin (right) did not get much of a chance to show off his wheels. He struck out in his first at-bat and then hit a foul pop up to the catcher the second time around. In his third at-bat, he laced a line drive to center field, but it was right at the center fielder. Finally, in his final at-bat, he smoked a hard line drive to the right fielder that got down for a hit. He also showed good instincts in the field and a plus arm.
CONTRIBUTING: Nathan Rode
PHOTOS: Alyson Boyer