CARY, N.C.—If you picked one game to summarize just what an event the National High School Invitational has already become, Thursday afternoon’s Clovis (Calif.) High-Gainesville (Ga.) High matchup would be a pretty useful analogue.
The NHSI has become both a must-see stop for scouts and a setting to let some of the best high school teams in the country face off. Clovis-Gainesville was a must-see on both counts.
Scores of scouting directors, national crosscheckers and scouts were present to watch a matchup of two of the top talents in this year’s high school class. For the scouting community, there's few better opportunities on the high school side than watching Michael Gettys vs. Jacob Gatewood. It's a matchup of two of the best power hitters in the 2014 draft class, two athletes with loud tools and equally loud questions about their hitting ability.
But at the same time, it was also a matchup of two of the better teams in the country. And the teams responded with an outstanding game as Clovis edged Gainesville 1-0. With the win, Clovis advanced to the semifinals of the tournament, putting them two wins away from a potential title.
"Fortunately we've been in a few games like this during our season so they are a little battle-tested. Our kids kept their poise," Clovis coach James Patrick said.
Clovis' only run came thanks to a cascade of Gainesville miscues in the fifth inning of an otherwise cleanly played game. Alan Crowley led off the inning with a single and advanced to second when R.J. Hartmann reached on a sacrifice bunt because Gainesville tried and failed to get the lead runner.
Crowley then advanced to third when Gainesville botched a throw at first base attempting to double off Hartmann on a fly out. That set the stage for Matt Sparks, who scored Crowley with a sacrifice fly.
Clovis senior righthander McCarthy Tatum, normally the team’s third baseman pitched a complete-game masterpiece. Gainesville loaded the bases with one out in the first inning but Tatum responded by striking out back-to-back hitters.
"In that first inning those two strikeouts, that had to be for us the big turning point. It was really good pitching by McCarthy," Patrick said.
That was the last jam Tatum had to work out of all day. The Fresno State commitment only allowed two more hits in the final six innings. No Gainesville batter reached scoring position after the first. Tatum mixed an 82-86 mph fastball, humping up to 87 mph for big moments, with a very effective breaking ball to keep Gainesville’s solid lineup handcuffed. Tatum struck out eight.
Gainesville's only other potential rally was snuffed out before it began. Starting pitcher Michael Curry lined a ball into the right center field gap that could have gone for extra bases in the sixth, but right fielder Tyler Osmer laid out to snag it, preventing at least a double and possibly a triple.
On the mound Curry, a junior, was nearly Tatum's equal. Normally the Red Elephants’ catcher, Curry mixed an 84-86 mph fastball, breaking ball and changeup to keep Clovis' lineup largely silenced. Curry allowed only four hits and struck out two.
The Gatewood-Gettys matchup wasn't as sensational. Gatewood had a single in the seventh and Gettys singled in the first.