Area Code Games Notebook: Day Four

LONG BEACH, Calif.—Pitching held up better Wednesday at the Area Code Games than it did on Tuesday, but there was still one football score (White Sox 18, Nationals 11) in a game that included the fifth home run of the tournament—a 431-foot blast to left-center by Arkansas commit Jonathan Denney. Denney’s three-run shot came on a fat 90 mph fastball from Jordan Parnell, and exited his bat at 107 mph according to the folks at TrackMan (see Conor Glassey’s explanation of TrackMan’s technology here).

That was the most electrifying moment of the day, but Denney wasn’t even the top offensive performer on this own White Sox team. That honor went to 2013 shortstop Andrew Rosa (Owasso, Okla.), who went 3-for-3 with two doubles and seven RBIs. Together, Rosa and Denney helped lead the White Sox back from a seven-run first-inning deficit.

Rosa got the White Sox on the board with a two-run single to right field in the second. He added a three-run double that one-hopped the left-field wall in the third, then ripped a two-run double down the left-field line in the fourth. All of his hits came on fastballs.

“I felt pretty good,” said the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Rosa. “I got in good fastball counts, saw the ball pretty well and put a good bat on it. I feel like i’ve got a good strike zone and I know my zone pretty well. I like to get in good counts—there are a lot of good curveballs out here that you want to stay away from.”

Rosa, an Oklahoma State commit, is a good athlete who is still learning the nuances of shortstop, which he did not start playing until high school (he was a second baseman previously). He did commit a throwing error in the first inning, and his internal clock isn’t always on point, but he said he is gaining confidence and getting more comfortable at short the more he plays there.

He certainly looked comfortable in the batter’s box.

California Showdown Provides Drama

Southern California Brewers coach Josh Belovsky said Tuesday night that his team was really looking forward to its “rivalry game” Wednesday against the NorCal Athletics. The game lived up to expectations, as both dugouts were energetic and vocal, and the game hung in the balance until the seventh and final inning. When the dust settled, the Brewers had escaped with a 3-2 win in the best game of the day.

The Brewers’ lineup is stacked with some of the biggest names in the tournament, but they were held hitless into the seventh by righthanders Steven Farinaro (Hayward, Calif.) and Trevin Haseltine (Vacaville, Calif.). Farinaro, a UCLA recruit, registered three strikeouts and allowed just one baserunner in his three innings of work, spotting his 89-91 mph fastball effectively and mixing in a sharp 75-76 breaking ball. He used that as his out pitch on first-inning strikeouts of sluggers Dominic Smith and Jeremy Martinez.

Haseltine, a California commit, is the younger brother of Jordan Haseltine, a rising junior lefty at San Francisco. Trevin showed some of the best stuff of the day in his three innings of work, during which he struck out four. Using a three-quarters slot and a delivery with some funk and deception, Haseltine attacked hitters with an 89-93 fastball with good arm-side run and sink. He kept hitters off balance with a 77-79 mph slider that he could back-foot against lefthanded hitters. He also flashed a handful of changeups at 80 mph, but the pitch remains a work in progress.

“Today I was really just trying to pound the zone,” said the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Haseltine. “I tried to throw my slider for a strike, get ahead with the fastball for sure. I threw a few changeups, I think I might have bounced one—I need to work on that for sure. I definitely have more confidence with the slider.”

Haseltine said he did not realize the A’s had a no-hitter going until the seventh, when righty Joey Caffese (Lodi, Calif.) took over. The Brewers loaded the bases with no outs against Caffese, but still they had no hits. Jason Martin drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game, and Ryan McMahon (Yorba Linda, Calif.) followed with the Brewers’ first hit of the game, a two-run single over a drawn-in infield against reliever Austin Puckett.

But the A’s did not go down quietly, scoring a run in the bottom of the frame and putting men at second and third with two outs. But lefthander Chris Kohler (Alta Loma, Calif.) kept his composure, striking out Brett Stephens on a 74 mph curveball to end the game and preserve the win.

“It’s always a rivalry with them,” Haseltine said. “They’ve got real good hitters, it’s just sad that we lost—sometimes the baseball gods are on their side.”

Kohler’s curveball is a nice weapon—a sharp mid-70s offering with tight spin and sharp 1-to-7 break. Kohler, who recently decommited from Southern California, also showed solid fastball velocity, working at 88-90 mph.

The other pitcher that stood out for the Brewers was lefty Blake Taylor (Mission Viejo, Calif.), who worked in the 89-92 range and showed a good 78-79 mph slider with sharp tilt.

Other Top Performers

• Pitching was also the big story in the first game of the day, a 5-1 win for the Northeast Yankees against the Northwest Royals. Righthander Dustin Driver (Wenatchee, Wash.) made his second start of the tournament for the Royals and continued to show some of the best stuff in the event. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound UCLA recruit worked in the 90-93 mph range and touched 94—the only pitcher to hit 94 through the first four days of the Area Codes. He had success with his 86-87 mph cutter against lefties and also showed a promising changeup and curveball.

The Yankees countered with righty Mark Armstrong (Clarence Center, N.Y.), who struck out four and allowed just two hits over three scoreless. Similarly physical at 6-3, 200 pounds, Armstrong attacked the zone with an 88-92 mph fastball, a 73-77 breaking ball and a 79 changeup. Armstrong is committed to Pittsburgh.

The Yankees finished the game with another intriguing arm, 6-foot-4, 245-pound lefthander Ben Bowden (Lynn, Mass.). Bowden worked at 87-90 mph, recording two strikeouts with his fastball and another with a 70 mph curveball.

• The Southeast Nationals played back-to-back games to finish the day, losing to the White Sox and the Reds. But several Nationals hitters had nice days.

Second baseman Dalton Dulin continued to swing a hot bat and serve as a catalyst atop the lineup. The Mississippi recruit went 3-for-3 with a walk against the White Sox, singling twice and doubling to left. He also delivered an RBI single against the Reds, though he struggled at times defensively.

Center fielder Matt McPhearson (Columbia, Maryland) has been similarly dynamic at the plate this week. A 5-foot-10, 170-pound lefthanded hitter, McPhearson sees a lot of pitches and has shown the ability to square up line drives up the middle and to the opposite field. The Miami recruit has four singles in three games, all of them to center or left, and he consistently gets from home to first in four seconds flat.

Left fielder Kyle Carruthers (Atlanta) has a similar frame at 5-foot-11, 170, and he has shown good strength in his compact righthanded swing. Carruthers hit a ground-rule double to left and lined a hard single to left in the final game of the day.

And LSU signee Nick Longhi (Venice, Fla.) continued to show one of the best swings in the tournament. The righthanded-hitting Longhi can wear out the gaps; he hit a two-run double to left-center against the White Sox, then delivered an RBI double to right-center against the Reds.

• There is no shortage of smallish speedsters in the Area Code Games this year. Like McPhearson, 5-foot-10 Reds outfielder Brennon Lund (South Jordan, Utah) has posted multiple 4-flat or better home-to-first times from the left side. After leading off the first inning with a walk Wednesday, Lund proceeded to steal second and third easily before scoring on a groundout. He added an RBI infield single in the second.

• Six-foot-6, 205-pound A.J. Puk (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) has already shown off a powerful lefthanded batting stroke this week, and Wednesday he demonstrated that he has the tools to be a two-way star at Florida if he doesn’t sign a pro contract next summer. Puk struck out the side in order in his first of two innings on the mound against the Nationals, working in the 90-92 range and mixing in a 73-74 curve with big 1-to-7 break. Puk gets superb extension out front in his delivery, giving hitters little time to react.

• Speaking of extension, TrackMan measures it with pin-point accuracy, and Nationals righty Brett Hanewich (Bradenton, Fla.) showed some of the best extension in the tournament Wednesday against the Reds. Hanewich worked in the 88-91 range from a low three-quarters slot and showed feel for an 81 mph changeup and 73-76 slurve. He is another potential impact two-way player in college—he is committed to Stanford.

• The most exciting pitcher to throw for the Reds was projectable 6-foot-5 righthander Derik Beauprez (Greenwood Village, Colo.), who worked in the 90-92 range and recorded a pair of strikeouts on quality changeups. Beauprez is committed to Miami.