CARY, N.C.—There’s no other high school tournament in existence that brings in as many highly-ranked teams from all across the country as USA Baseball’s National High School Invitational. As such, the tournament has a substantial impact on Baseball America’s High School Top 25 Rankings.
Order was preserved in the quarterfinal round of the tournament as No. 2 Venice (Fla.) High defeated No. 3 Cathedral Catholic (San Diego), 7-3.
“It’s pretty exciting to come play teams from all the way on the other side of the United States, highly-ranked, very talented baseball clubs,” Venice head coach Craig Faulkner said. “It’s exciting for use to come in and play that level of baseball. That’s why we’re here.”
Venice got to Cathedral Catholic’s starter, righthander Michael Martin, early—chasing him with a four-run lead with one out in the second inning and never looked back. The Indians got contributions from up and down the lineup, with the team’s seven hits collected by six different players.
The team also showed a lot of patience at the plate, drawing seven walks, and eight of the team’s starters reached base.
“That’s our strength,” Faulkner said. “We don’t have tons of power, but everybody can lay a bunt down, everybody can put the baseball in play, and we make things happen. When they get on, we have a lot of ways to score.”
Venice shortstop Dalton Guthrie went 1-for-4 in the game, but really stands out for his glove work. The junior who is committed to Florida made a very nice play for the final out of the game, ranging to his left on a ball hit up the middle and made a smooth, clean transfer and a strong throw to first base.
“Dalton Guthrie is a defensive specialist,” Faulkner said. “That guy plays at a different level than anybody else. He’s a very, very smart, savvy guy. He thinks two plays ahead of everybody. He’s a real special kid. Nobody taught him that. He’s just a student of the game. His dad, Mark Guthrie, played 15 years in the big leagues and coaches for me. I don’t know if it’s just from going to all those big league games all those year, or what, but he’s an exceptional young man.”
Senior righthander Tyson Albert had a solid start for the Indians, but nearly every lead is safe for Venice, as the Indians have senior righthander Cooper Hammond in the bullpen. He pitched four perfect innings in relief with four strikeouts.
“He can pitch almost every single day and he’s lights out,” Faulkner said. “When he comes in, he shuts the door every time. He’s a tremendous competitor, and he won a state championship for us last year.”
Hammond is a submarine righthander committed to Miami. His high-70s fastball has a lot of late movement and he also mixes in a Frisbee-like slider and a changeup.
“He comes from such a low spot, you just can’t pick the ball up really well, and he throws strikes on top of that,” Faulkner said. “The thing that he does, if you watch the game, he gets ground ball after ground ball, right to him, and he’s a good fielder. He’s tough. If he comes in the game and he’s got a lead, he doesn’t lose it very often.”
Venice, who improved to 13-1 with the win, will play Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) in the semifinals on March 29.