JUPITER, Fla.—An intensified atmosphere in the first round of the WWBA World Championship brought one of the best pitching performances of the event. Evoshield Canes righthander Blake Bivens (George Washington High, Sutherlin, Va.) threw six innings and allowed a lone run in a 2-1 victory over SCORE International, comprised of players exclusively from Florida. Bivens surrendered two hits and two walks that led to one run against six strikeouts.
At an event where pitchers largely come in for short stints, allowing them to rear back for the upper end of their velocity ranges with effort and typically struggle with their control and leave the ball up in the zone, Bivens was the opposite. He pounded the strike zone, as nearly 65 percent of his pitches went for strikes. More importantly, Bivens threw quality strikes and located the ball in the lower half of the strike zone. Bivens has an athletic delivery that he finishes well, a quick arm and also creates some behind-head deception as the ball jumps from his hand from a downhill plane.
Bivens’ fastball was 90-92 mph and touched 93 in his first few innings, and he maintained 89-92 mph throughout his six innings. According to scouts who have seen him many times, this was the hardest he has ever thrown, as he typically sits 88-91.
“I didn't realize I was throwing as hard as I was,” Bivens said. “I was able to get enough rest heading into the event and my arm felt good, but I didn't know if my mechanics were going to be there. And they were on point and I was able to figure it out in the bullpen.”
Bivens put away hitters with his upper-70s curveball with tight 12-to-6 rotation that was an above-average or better offering at times and a swing-and-miss offering Sunday. The pitch also stood out because of his command.
“When my curveball is working it is normally my best pitch,” Bivens said. “I am normally able to command it just as well as my fastball, if not better.”
Bivens did not use a changeup but said he normally utilizes one against lefthanded hitters.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Bivens has an athletic and well-proportioned build, and is committed to Liberty.
• One of the most anticipated starts of the event was Texas Scout Team Yankees righthander Garret Fulenchek, who did not attend a national showcase this summer and hails from a small town (Howe, Texas) of less than 5,000 people. Although Fulenchek did not have his sharpest stuff Sunday, he showed the raw elements desired in a hurler.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Fulenchek has an athletic, lanky build with long limbs and significant physical projection remaining to his large frame. The first pitch out of his hand was 93 mph and he touched 94, sitting 90-92 mph. He allowed one walk in three innings but often worked in the upper half of the zone. When his mechanics synced, he showed the ability to pitch with downhill plane and some armside run from a high three-quarters arm slot.
Fulenchek largely pitched off his fastball and only threw one of his five breaking balls breaking for strikes, but he has shown an average or better breaking ball in the past, according to scouts who have a history with him.
Fulenchek, who is young for the class, will not be 18 until after the draft and is committed to Dallas Baptist.
• Across three games, Team Rawlings catcher Griffin Helms (Norcross High, Duluth, Ga.) went 3 for 8 with a double and consistently made hard contact hitting in the cleanup spot behind third baseman Michael Chavis. The physical 6-foot, 205-pound catcher has a powerful lower half, well-developed upper body and strength throughout his large frame. The righthanded-hitting Helms is committed to Kennesaw State.
• Houston Banditos righthander Erin Baldwin retired all three hitters he faced and struck out one in a one-inning outing on Sunday but could have impressed without throwing a pitch. Baldwin has a physique rarely seen on a baseball field. The 6-foot-5, 175-pound long-limbed Baldwin has broad shoulders, a lanky build and lean lower half that offers tremendous projection. Baldwin looks like a shooting guard or small forward. Although his fastball sat in the mid 80s and touched 87, Baldwin threw with downhill plane from a high arm slot. The uncommitted Baldwin showed a 72-74 mph breaking ball. He attends Barbe High in Lake Charles, La., which is where the Cecchini brothers attended.