Gonzales Starts Prospect Classic Off Right

For the second-annual Prospect Classic, USA Baseball decided to mix things up a little bit--literally.

Instead of having two games pitting the College National Team against the 18-and-under hopefuls, the event was expanded to four games--two games with the teams integrated followed by two games in the traditional format.

The first game took place June 29 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and ended with a 2-2 tie after seven innings. As usual, the pitching was ahead of the hitting--especially the college pitchers--and the most impressive arm was lefthanded starter Marco Gonzales from Gonzaga.

Gonzales has an athletic 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame. He repeats his effortless delivery well, allowing him to fill up the strike zone. Last year at Gonzaga, he went 8-2, 1.55 with 92 strikeouts and 23 walks over 93 innings.

Gonzales gave up one hit over four shutout innings. He didn’t allow a walk and stuck out three.

“I felt good, but it was hot,” Gonzales said. “I had trouble keeping my hand dry and my body was just soaking. But it was fun. I was nice and loose out there. It was easy to get loose in this weather and I was just trying to throw strikes.”

Before one inning, Gonzales only took two warmup pitches before signaling to his catcher that he was good to go.

“It took me maybe 15 minutes to get ready, it was nuts,” Gonzales said. “I usually take a lot longer to get ready when I’m up in the Northwest. It’s a lot harder to get loose. But it was sure humid and it was easy to get loose. I felt like I had a little more juice in the tank today.”

Gonzales’ repertoire consists of a fastball that was in the 87-89 mph range, topping out at 90. His best pitch is his fading changeup typically thrown between 75-76 mph and he also mixes in a cutter around 81 mph and an occasional mid-70s curveball. The cutter is a pitch Gonzales picked up recently.

“I’ve been working on it with my pitching coach up at Gonzaga, coach (Steve) Bennett,” Gonzales said. “It’s actually a pitch I’ve developed this summer. I didn’t even throw it at all this spring, hardly. But it’s been working for me.”

Gonzales, who won four state championships at Rocky Mountain High in Fort Collins, Colo., and was a first-team Baseball America All-American utility player this spring, said playing for Team USA is one of the greatest thrills in his young career.

“It’s probably the greatest feeling I’ve ever had, putting on the uniform, honestly,” Gonzales said. “Hearing the National Anthem and just being able to go out there and be able to represent my school and my family and ultimately my country, it’s probably the greatest feeling I’ve ever had on a baseball field so far. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. It’s a real honor.”

National Nuggets

• Third baseman Drew Ward, a rising junior from Leedy (Okla.) High, won a Sooner State showdown by hitting a home run against Oral Roberts righthander Jose Trevino. The home run came off of a 91 mph fastball. Ward played in the inaugural Prospect Classic last year and says the mixed teams keep the games more competitive. In his third year of trying out for Team USA, Ward’s goal for the summer is to make the team to travel to South Korea for the IBAF World Championships and he feels like he’s made progress since his first attempt.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger since then so my bat speed has come along,” he said. “I’m getting around balls a lot better. I’ve seen this competition enough that I’m starting to get used to it.”

• Cal State Fullerton outfielder Michael Lorenzen went 1-for-2 with two stolen bases. Lorenzen played in the Prospect Classic last year, as well.

• Coming off Arizona’s National Championship, Wildcats outfielder Johnny Field went 2-for-2 in the game with a double.

• UCLA submarine righthander David Berg pitched a perfect seventh inning by striking out the side.

Terry Francona and Jack McKeon served as honorary managers for the teams.