High Heat: May 22

Cahill's Ivy League path could be diverted by lure of pro ball





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See also: High School Top 50 Poll


SAN DIEGO--Trevor Cahill plays in the same high school conference that produced big leaguers Hank Blalock, Eric Chavez, Troy Glaus, Cole Hamels, Eric Munson and Mark Redman.

Yet even though he pitches in San Diego’s North County, one of the most-scouted areas of the country, until two months ago pro scouts had little clue who Cahill was.

That’s because the righthander from Vista High threw just 17 innings last season, and his fastball was clocked at a pedestrian 83-85 mph. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Cahill wasn’t even the best pitcher on the Vista staff. That designation belonged to senior righthander McCullough Dean, who committed to Cal State Fullerton.

And while Dean is having an outstanding spring (8-1, 2.10), Cahill has matured into San Diego County’s hardest thrower, topping out at 94 mph. And the right people have started to take notice.

Cahill was clocked at 91 in the seventh inning of a 17-strikeout performance against Oceanside High, and outing that was viewed by more than a dozen scouts and at least three crosscheckers. There were twice as many scouts in attendance when Vista sent Cahill to the mound against Fallbrook High, which was ranked 19th in the Baseball America/National High School Coaches Association Top 50 and features at least four players who had signed to play in college next season.

Cahill didn’t disappoint, striking out 13 with a dominant fastball, knuckle-curveball, changeup, slider and pinpoint control.

Another two dozen scouts came out to see Cahill pitch against archrival Rancho Buena Vista, the school that produced Padres outfielder and Red Sox hero Dave Roberts.

Despite running a fever, Cahill was clocked at 91 mph, but he had little command and lasted just three innings. Turns out a simple cold was really strep throat, and he was forced to miss his next start.

Cahill’s 1.77 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 58 innings are--to use the player’s lingo--sick. He had walked 18. He plays shortstop when not pitching, and was hitting .421-0-23 after 24 games.

“I don’t know if he’s a first-round pick,” one veteran West Coast scout said. “He just might be. But I can guarantee you--if he tells us he wants to play pro ball--he won’t be on the board in the third round.

“There are a shortage of live arms in this draft, and this kid has a live arm.”

He also has a brain. Cahill carries a 4.6 grade-point average--on a 4.0 scale, thanks to advanced placement classes--and is the school’s top math and social studies student. He has committed to play at Dartmouth of the Ivy League next season.

Dartmouth isn’t exactly baseball mecca, so some close to the Cahill family have introduced the idea of staying closer to home and playing at Stanford, UCLA, Southern California or for Tony Gwynn, at hometown San Diego State.

“This is all pretty new to me and my family,” Cahill said of the draft rush. “My main focus at the start of this season was to pitch well enough to give our team a chance to win a county championship. And that’s still the goal.

“I throw four pitches, but usually only have two or three working on a given day. This season it seems like I can command all four.”

That command, along with velocity, a loose arm and a body scouts say can easily carry 25 more pounds, has pushed Cahill near the top of this year’s draft class.

“I know the scouts are coming to see me,” he said. “It’s hard to miss the radar guns. But I’m pretty good at blocking out distractions, focusing on the task at hand.

“This whole draft thing is pretty new to me. I made a very good college choice, but I’m keeping my options open.”

--JOHN MAFFEI

Approaching The Peak

When Nova High (Davie, Fla.) lost twice in a three-week span, Jackson High (Mill Creek, Wash.) moved one rung closer on the climb toward a final No. 1 ranking.

Jackson was ranked No. 2 in the BA/NHSBCA Top 50 after a pair of thrilling district playoff victories that landed the Timberwolves in the Washington state playoffs with a 22-0 record.

To begin the district playoffs, Jackson senior righthander Cam Nobles threw a no-hitter in a 3-0 victory against Marysville-Pilchuck High (Marysville, Wash.). Nobles recorded 13 strikeouts and walked four, including two batters in the first inning.

“My adrenaline was pumping pretty good cause it was the first playoff game of the year,” Nobles said. “I have a tendency to stiffen up, so I run a lot to get good and loose and I took a couple of extra laps (before the game).”

Nobles pitched his way out of the first-inning jam, thanks in part to one of three impressive plays his infield made behind him.

Nobles’ erratic control got him in trouble again in the sixth, when he issued another walk to Marysville-Pilchuck’s two-hole hitter, bringing up the Tomahawks top hitter Ricky Holm. “I had been challenging him with changeups all day and he had been whiffing,” said Nobles, who committed to Washington. “So we threw a couple of fastballs right by him.

“They had first and second, no outs and their best hitter at the plate. And then the next guy rolled into a double play, so that was the biggest inning right there.”

The Timberwolves dovetailed Nobles’ gem with an 11-2 trouncing of Mountlake Terrace High to claim the district championship and earn a berth in the state Class 4-A semifinals.

Jackson was scheduled to take on Kirkland’s Lake Washington for an opportunity to advance to the state championship game, and a perfect season.

After getting some help from a team in Florida to move one spot behind top-ranked The Woodlands (Texas) High, Jackson was in position, provided it took care of its own business, to start doing some scoreboard watching--Texas style.

A Season Unlike Any Other

AUGUSTA, Ga.--A high school program that set a prep standard for championship success appeared poised to regain that form in the Georgia state playoffs.

Greenbrier High set a national mark by winning a state baseball championship in its first three years of existence (1997, ‘98, ‘99) as a Georgia High School Association member. Greenbrier, a public school about 10 miles from Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the Masters, was adding to its young tradition this season.

Still alive in the postseason, the Wolfpack was 27-0 and Georgia’s highest-ranked Class 4-A team.

The margin of victory stands out even more than 27 straight wins. The Wolfpack reached the 10-run mark in 19 of 27 games. They scored 15 or more runs in another seven outings. That’s while holding all but six teams to two runs or less. Greenbrier was scoring an average of 10.9 runs and allowing 1.6 runs a game. Class 5-A Starr’s Mill of Fayetteville, Ga. (27-0) was the only other undefeated team.

Leading Greenbrier’s stat parade was sophomore southpaw Nolan Belcher. The 5-foot-7, 145-pound Belcher has been nicknamed “Little Unit” for his strikeout prowess, working with a nasty curveball and a fastball consistently clocked at 86 mph. Belcher was 9-0, 0.59 with 107 strikeouts and 24 walks in 59 innings.

He’d allowed two hits in three postseason starts, including fanning 18 batters in a one-hitter. He’d given up 16 hits and posted a perfect game and a no-hitter among 13 appearances.

Behind him on the mound is junior Brandon Cumpton, whose fastball has a tick more velocity. He was 9-0 after 11 appearances.

Georgia signee Rich Poythress (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) was the most heralded senior on the club. The third baseman was hitting .432-8-36 going into the state playoffs. He hit .553 as a junior and had totaled 30 home runs since his sophomore year. His .621 on-base mark was proof of how carefully clubs pitched him. While his skill set profiles best in college, he had worked out for the Mariners and Red Sox this spring.

Greenbrier’s No. 9 hitter, outfielder/pitcher Rafael Parks, might be the team’s best draft-eligible prospect. At least five scouts have worked him out, and he’s shown well-above-average speed and intriguing arm strength, touching 88 mph off the mound.

--JEFF SENTEL



AROUND THE NATION

• The highly anticipated warm-up game between two of Texas’ top teams failed to live up to expectations. After No. 5 Brenham High and No. 1 The Woodlands High won their respective districts, they arranged a game at Sam Houston State during their bye week prior to starting the state playoffs. Brenham struggled early, falling behind by six runs before losing 7-2. The Woodlands senior righthander/shortstop Kyle Drabek pitched the final three innings, allowing one run on three hits with five strikeouts and a walk. Drabek followed that outing with an impressive start in a second-round playoff victory against Georgetown, a 2-1 win at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. He improved to 10-0 with a four-hitter as The Woodlands won its 23rd straight game.

Brenham held off Port Neches-Groves High in its second-round series to improve to 31-2. Center fielder Jason Gurka, second baseman Isaac Nuti and third baseman Chris Andreas combined to go 10-for-13 with nine RBIs and eight runs in the best-of-three sweep.

• San Diego’s high school talent is strongest among its sophomore and junior classes, and Torrey Pines High of Encinitas made its debut in the Top 50 this season thanks to a balanced club featuring veterans and underclassmen. Junior outfielder/pitcher Eric Hillenbrand, who led the team in batting at .451 and was second with a 1.46 ERA, and senior righthander Reid Suitor (6-1, 1.25) were two of three Falcons starting pitchers who had an ERA under 2.00. They won the 56th Lions Invitational Tournament, which was highlighted by a 2-1 win against No. 19 Fallbrook in the semifinals. Suitor, who has signed with UC Irvine, tossed a perfect game this season against Westview High of Los Angeles, striking out nine.

• Ohio’s high school baseball scene remained competitive as the state’s top teams prepared for the postseason. Walsh Jesuit High of Cuyahoga Falls went 2-1 in the Ohio Jesuit Tournament, losing to Saint Xavier (Cincinnati) 8-6 to break its 13-game winning streak. The Warriors defeated Saint Ignatius (Cleveland) 2-1 behind senior lefthander Chad Rodgers, who threw a two-hitter with 12 strikeouts. The Kent State signee was considered a top five rounds talent headed into the draft, and led Walsh Jesuit to a 23-2 record entering the Division II district playoffs (Ohio has four divisions, with I being the highest). Scioto High of Dublin (22-2) won its third Division I district championship in four seasons and moved into the latest BA/NHSBCA poll at No. 43. Traditional Cincinnati powers No. 32 Elder and Moeller High looked poised to make runs in the Division I bracket as well. “There has been a lot of parity here this season,” Elder coach Mark Thompson said. “The state overall seems to be a little down, but there is a lot of strength in underclassmen.”

• Louisiana’s playoff scene concluded with an unlikely scenario. Lake Charles’ Barbe High came from behind in four of their five playoff games and knocked off the state’s top-ranked team on its way to the Class 5-A title. The Bucs beat No. 14 Archbishop Rummel High (Metairie) 7-4 in the semifinals, thanks to a six-run fifth inning and nine stolen bases. Barbe next pulled out a 2-1 win over Sulphur (La.) High, which had knocked off New Orleans’ Jesuit High, in front of more than 2,000 fans at Louisiana-Lafayette to cap its season. “It’s amazing the obstacles this team had to face, and we’re not the only ones,” said Barbe coach Glenn Cecchini, who said the school’s baseball field was destroyed during Hurricane Rita. “We had total devastation. It looked like a bomb had been dropped.”

Barbe played its first 28 games away from home while its field was rebuilt, and slipped out of the national rankings when it lost five starters during the season’s first month due to various injuries and illnesses. Yet its 37 victories were a state record. “It’s been an unbelievable year,” Cecchini said.

Texas signee Josh Prince hit .425 with a .500 on-base percentage, 19 walks, 13 strikeouts, 20 extra-base hits and 55 stolen bases. One of the top defensive infielders in the Class of 2006, Prince had a .956 fielding percentage, with nine errors in 261 innings at shortstop. (His older brother Dooley played two seasons locally at McNeese State before transferring to Texas in 2004.)

• Louisiana’s Class 3-A playoffs were more predictable, as Parkview Baptist High (Baton Rouge) rebounded from a slow start to win its fifth straight state title. Parkview Baptist junior lefthander/first baseman Forrest Moore posted a 12-0 record, while senior righthander/shortstop Kellen Bozeman went 8-0, and is bound for Louisiana State. The Eagles finished 32-5 and have won 25 consecutive playoff games.

• A 13-inning epic between Vancouver, Wash., rivals Hudson’s Bay and Skyview ended 2-1 on a balk. With a runner on third in the 13th inning, Skyview reliever Jeremy Dunham was called for a balk, which Skyview coach Eric Estes said was the correct call, pointing out that Hudson’s Bay was called for the same infraction earlier in the game.

“I didn’t even see what the pitcher was doing,” Hudson’s Bay outfielder Steve Ames told The Clark County Columbian. “I was like, ‘Huh?’ “

The victory gave Hudson’s Bay its third consecutive district title, and was underscored by a jaw-dropping performance by junior righty Greg Peavey. Peavey went 10 innings with 13 strikeouts on 151 pitches.

“I was just happy to keep my teammates in the ballgame and give them a chance to win,” Peavey told paper. “With this win right here, it’s going to give us great momentum.”

• Flocks of scouts converged upon New Jersey’s Lenape High to see a showdown between two of the top prospects in the Northeast. Bishop Eustace senior shortstop Bill Rowell, a surefire first-rounder, faced off against Lenape righthander Sean Black, one of the fastest climbers in this year’s draft class. Black won the battle with Rowell, retiring him three times on a strikeout, ground out and fly out and walking him once. But Bishop Eustace got to Black for three runs in the seventh inning to take a 3-1 win. Still, Black helped his stock, which had risen to third-round territory.

Contributing: Aaron Fitt

Compiled by Alan Matthews