BA/Perfect Game Wood Bat Championship
Day One Report
By Allan Simpson
Kazmir, who attends Cy Falls High in Houston, worked three impressive innings for Team Florida USA '02, the pre-tournament favorite, in a start against the Pinellas (Fla.) Phillies. His fastball sat at 94 mph, topped at 95 and he mixed in an outstanding slider--all to the delight of about 250 scouts and college recruiters who flocked to his Pool H game.
"He's the best high school lefthander I've seen since (Rick) Ankiel," said one National League crosschecker. "He's not as big as Ankiel, but he has more energy in his body than Rick did. Actually, because of his size, he reminds you more of Geoff Goetz (the first high school lefthander selected the year Ankiel was drafted).
The 6-foot, 175-pound Kazmir had worked only three innings since the Area Code Games in early August, yet he showed no ill effects from his nearly 2 1/2-month layoff. He struck out seven and allowed only one base runner--on a walk, when a light rain caused him to lose the grip on the ball--before a controversial finish cost him a victory.
Most scouts who have seen Kazmir on multiple occasions this summer said it was his most impressive performance since Perfect Game's National Showcase at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., in June when he hit 96 and moved to the head of the 2002 draft class.
"He's blessed with a quick, live arm and a nasty breaking ball," the crosschecker said. "And he really competes."
Top effort required
Kazmir, who verbally committed to Texas on Oct. 19, needed to be at his best Friday as Team Florida surprisingly lost its first game, 5-4, to the Louisiana All-Stars, and faced a must-win game against Pinellas to keep alive its hopes of advancing to the 32-team championship bracket, which starts Sunday. The top two teams in each pool will advance.
Team Florida took a 2-0 lead to the top of the sixth inning as Kazmir and junior righthander Chad Billingsley (Defiance, Ohio) combined to blank Pinellas on one hit with 12 strikeouts through five innings. Lefthander Mark Romanczuk came on to pitch at that point and struck out the first two batters he faced. Because the game was rapidly approaching the tournament's two-hour time limit, it appeared Team Florida would need just one more out to square its record at 1-1 and result in a four-way tie in the pool.
But Romanczuk, the top-rated high school player in Delaware, never got the final out. With rain pelting down and Romanczuk having a difficult time gripping the ball, he allowed a hit and two walks to load the bases. Umpires briefly halted play at that point and when it resumed a few minutes later, Joey Angleberger drilled a two-run single, tying the game 2-2. Umpires then called the game.
It was expected that the tournament committee would rule that the game will be treated as a suspended game and would have to be completed on Saturday. That decision was expected early Saturday. Team Florida argued, to no avail, that the game should revert to the last complete inning, which in effect, would have given Team Florida a 2-0 win.
Should the late Pinellas rally stand up and result in a tie, it would put winless Team Florida in the position of needing a win in its final pool play game to go 1-1-1 and also needing some help to advance to the championship bracket. Kazmir is scheduled to pitch again on either Sunday or Monday, depending on Team Florida's standing in the tournament.
Baseball America falls
The defending champion Baseball America team also struggled on Day One, splitting a pair of games. It beat the Cary (N.C.) Bulls 2-0 and slipped up against the Yellow Jackets from Florida, 5-3. BA needs to win its final pool-play game on Saturday against Hoosier Bat of Indiana, also 1-1, to advance. The surprising Yellow Jackets are 2-0.
The only other teams to go 2-0 on Day One were the Tallahassee (Fla.) Titans in Pool B, the Tampa Yankees and Columbia (Texas) Angels in Pool C, the Florida Rage in Pool D, the Bama Bombers and San Antonio Hackers in Pool F, the Perfect Game Orange team in Pool G and the Dulin's Dodgers from Tennessee in Pool J.
The Dodgers won a pair of 1-0 games, beating American Baseball East 1-0 on a run in the final inning and the Seminole (Fla.) Scout Team on a first-inning run.
Besides the Team Florida-Pinellas game, four others were not completed because of the rain, and eight others were postponed altogether. That forced a rescheduling of games on Saturday, when games were already scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.
NOTEBOOK: An all-star team of players from the Dominican Republic was a late scratch . . . Deposed Boston Red Sox manager Jimy Williams was in attendance at the tournament Friday to watch his son Shawn, a senior righthander at Florida's Clearwater Catholic High. The younger Williams is playing for the Pinellas Phillies . . . Former Reds manager Jack McKeon is attending the tournament, both scouting for the Reds and to see his grandson Zack Booker, a catcher-righthander for Western Alamance High in Elon College, N.C., who is playing for the Cary Bulls . . . Reds outfielder Dmitri Young is helping coach the Baseball America. His younger brother Delmon, the nation's No. 2-ranked high school junior, is a member of the BA squad . . . Monday's championship game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
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