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Junior pitchers stand out

October 28, 2000

By Allan Simpson

JUPITER, Fla.—Outstanding pitching continued to be the story at the Baseball America/Perfect Game World Wood Bat Championship here Saturday as there were 14 more shutouts thrown. That topped the first day total of 10 shutouts, which included three scoreless ties and three no-hitters.

There were no 0-0 games and no no-hitters Saturday, and there were even several home runs—unlike the first day when there was one (not none as previously reported). But pitching was no less dominant as the combination of numerous pitchers throwing in excess of 90 mph and a majority of players using wood in a competitive situation for the first time ever has proven lethal.

The talk of the tournament, to date, has been an impressive showing by the junior class of high school pitchers. At least 10 juniors have been clocked upwards of 90 mph so far.

Topping that list are righthanders Jeremy Bonderman of Pasco (Wash.) High and Jason Neighborgall of Riverside High in Durham, N.C.

Bonderman, the ace pitcher on Team USA's silver-medal winning squad at the World Junior Championship this summer, was clocked at 94 mph. But he lasted only 1 2/3 innings and was the losing pitcher as the powerful Dallas Tigers dropped a 5-1 decision to the Pinellas County, Fla., scout team. Senior righthander Jason Costello of Clearwater (Fla.) High outpitched Bonderman in a showdown of unbeaten teams in Pool D. Costello blanked the Tigers on two hits over six innings, but walked in a run with two outs in the seventh before getting relief help to work out of a bases-loaded jam.

Neighborgall didn't pitch Saturday but was impressive in a four-inning stint for the unbeaten North Carolina Warhawks Friday, retiring all 12 batters he faced, including six on strikeouts.

In all, 21 of the nation's top 31-ranked high school juniors, as rated by Prospects Plus, are participating in the four-day, 50-team tournament. Bonderman is ranked No. 7, Neighborgall No. 15.

Other prominent juniors who have been clocked over 90 are lefthander Scott Kazmir (Cy Falls High, Houston), and righthanders Mark McCormick (Clear Creek High, Clear Creek Shores, Texas), Evan Meek (Inglemoor High, Bothell, Wash.), Mike Pelfrey (Wichita Heights High, Wichita), Jeff Jacobson (Durango High, Las Vegas), Allen Ponder (Auburn, Ala., High) and Tom Wilhelmsen (Tucson High).

Two of the better efforts Saturday by junior pitchers were turned in by lefthander Sean O'Brien (Dixon, Calif., High) and righthander Tyler Jones, who weren't clocked as high as 90.

O'Brien blanked the Fremd, Ill., Vikings 10-0 on two hits, no walks and nine strikeouts as pre-tournament favorite Team California remained unbeaten.

Jones struck out nine in three innings to close out a 6-1 win for the Dallas Tigers over Team New Jersey.

There have been no shortage of senior pitchers hitting 90 either. Righthander Patrick Sadler (Trinity High, Washington, Pa.) hit 94 mph Saturday, matching the figure reached by East Cobb (Ga.) Astros righthander Kyle Davies on Friday. Sadler, with five strikeouts in two innings, combined on a two-hitter with righthander Scott Simon, who struck out eight in five innings, as Team Pittsburgh gained its second tie of the tournament, 1-1 against the Southwest Florida scouts team, but remained unbeaten at 1-0-2.

  • Team Ontario righthander Chris Kemlo worked the first six innings of a 1-0 win over the Orlando Skorpions. Kemlo, a 6-foor-4 righthander from McLaughlin High in Oshawa, Ontario, allowed two hits, no walks and struck out 11. Team Ontario, which tied Team California 1-1 in its first game, has allowed one run in its three games.
  • Righthander Derek Antelo of Dade Christian High in Miami led the Miami Sluggers to a 6-0 win over Team Florida Red by allowing a hit and no walks to go with 11 strikeouts.
  • Lefthander Jeremy Sowers (Ballard High, Louisville) pitched to the minimum 15 hitters in a five-inning appearance against the Miami Shark. He gave up an infield single and struck out eight before a pair of Texans—Kazmir and senior righthander Chas Taylor (Westlake High, Austin)—finished up a 5-0 win for Baseball America.

Competition intensified Saturday as teams jockeyed for the 16 positions available in bracket play, with starts Sunday afternoon. The 10 pool winners will advance, along with six wild-cards.

One of the key tie-breakers in determining the six at-large teams is fewest cumulative runs allowed, which has made sound pitching even more of a premium.

There were only four teams with perfect records through Saturday—the North Carolina Warhawks (Pool H), the Treasure Coast (Fla.) Cardinals (Pool G), the West-Side All-Stars from Puerto Rico (Pool F) and West Palm Beach, Fla. (Pool E), none of whom rated as a pre-tournament favorite.

Among teams that remained unbeaten but with a tie were Team California (Pool A), Team Ontario (Pool A), the Pinellas County scout team (Pool D), Team Florida Blue (Pool E), East Coast Prospects (Pool I), Team Pittsburgh (Pool I) and the Batters Box (Fla.) Bandits (Pool J).

Both the Tigers and Baseball America ranked as pre-tournament favorites, but with 2-1 records they are in danger of not making the round of 16. Another favorite, the Bayside (N.Y.) Yankees, lost twice on Saturday and are all but out of bracket play.

Look for daily coverage of the event on baseballamerica.com and perfectgame.org.

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