PEORIA, Ariz.—JD McLaughlin and a couple of his DeMarini Sandlot 2019 teammates have closely followed the fortunes of Oregon State during the Pac-12 powerhouse's road to the College World Series, all while contending for their own title in the Wilson Premier Championship West tournament.
Oregon State recruits McLaughlin, Justin Boyd and Kai Murphy each have two more years to go at their respective high schools, but that doesn't dampen the enthusiasm about the Beavers baseball program.
"I just felt like that was the place to be," McLaughlin said. "I want to play in Omaha and I feel Oregon State is going to do that. With a few Oregon State commits on our team, I feel like it's good for us playing in the future."
Assuming that McLaughlin makes it to the campus in Corvallis in a couple of years, the righthanded-hitting outfielder will be transitioning from one storied baseball program to another. He plays scholastically at Hamilton High (Chandler, Ariz.), a perennial Arizona powerhouse that has won three of the last four Division 6A state championships.
As a sophomore, McLaughlin batted cleanup in a vaunted offense that included Nick Brueser, Drew Swift and Cole Bellinger, three seniors with Division I college commitments, with Brueser and Swift ranking in the BA 500.
His first high school varsity season was a great learning experience for McLaughlin, thanks in part to what he was able to pick up from the seniors on the team.
"Those guys were great to me," McLaughlin said. "They just taught me new ways to approach the game. Nick (Brueser) taught me new approaches at the plate . . . just everything."
McLaughlin has been part of the Sandlot program since he was eight years old, and believes that what he's learned during that time has helped him to be more competitive and an overall better ballplayer.
"We've always taught the way to play the game," Sandlot coach Brent Densmore said. "He sees it and knows it. It's an awareness type of game . . . it's an aggressive game . . . Just being in the game the entire time, not taking plays off, playing hard and understanding that eyes are on you all the time."
McLaughlin believes that his biggest area for improvement relates to his approach at the plate.
"Attacking my pitch early in at-bats," McLaughlin said. "Sometimes I swing at pitches I don't like and get myself out."
While he's played both infield and outfield during his baseball career, McLaughlin knows exactly where he fits best.
"I see myself in the outfield," McLaughlin said. "I've got a big arm. Infield's really not my thing."
Besides, playing outfield will better allow McLaughlin to emulate the big league ballplayer after whom he tries to model his style of playing.
"Bryce Harper," McLaughlin said. "I love his intensity and how he plays the game."
Canes Win It All
The Evoshield Canes National team came into the inaugural Wilson Premier Championship West tournament as the odds-on favorite to win it all, primarily due to a roster stacked with players having Division 1 college commitments. The Canes met all expectations by defeating AZ T-Rex Baseball, 4-0, in the final game to take home the trophy in the 2017 division.
Except for a brief hiccup in its second game of the weekend when they were upset by the AZ Athletics Orange 1-0, the Canes steamrolled the opposition, winning its other qualifying games by scores of 8-0, 8-0 and 7-0. Landon Marceaux, an LSU commit from Destrehan, La., was named the division's top pitcher after leading his team to victory in the semifinal contest against GBG Northwest. Canes third baseman/reliever Nicholas Northcut, a Vanderbilt commit from Mason, Ohio, was named tournament MVP.
DeMarini Sandlot squeaked by LVR Navy, 5-4, to win the 2019 division, while Wilson Sandlot prevailed over Elite Baseball Training, 6-4, to capture the 2020 division crown.