Drew Bowser Stands Out At 2019 Perfect Game All-American Classic
SAN DIEGO — Typically, in an event like the Perfect Game All-American Classic, it’s difficult to stand out.
Surrounded by 54 of the top high school players in the country, there’s always another player who might be a little bit faster, who might hit the ball a little bit harder, a pitcher who has more stuff or better command—there's almost always something or someone.
But for Harvard-Westlake High (Studio City, Calif.) infielder Drew Bowser, standing above the pack proved to be no problem. Bowser brought home plenty of hardware throughout the weekend, starting first when it was announced that he was responsible for raising the most money for the Rady Children’s Hospital and then again when he topped third baseman Cayden Wallace (Arkansas) and won the Perfect Game All-American Classic Home Run Challenge.
But the main stage of the Perfect Game All-American Classic is, of course, the actual game. And there, Bowser continued to shine, going 1-for-1 with a double and a walk, earning MVP honors as his West squad took down the East, 4-1.
“The fundraising was the most important, that’s what this is all about,” Bowser said after he had been showered by teammates in ice-cold water. “But you know, I never would have really thought I would be going home with all this stuff. I’d just like to thank Perfect Game and all they’ve done for us.
“It was a great experience.”
After showcasing his raw power in the home run challenge prior to the game, Bowser—who has stood out at a number of different events this summer—showed that he could tap into some thump against the best pitching in the class. He came about a foot shy of homering during the fifth inning, when he squared up an 82 mph breaking ball from righthander Victor Mederos (Florida) and sent it screaming to the outfield at 99.9 mph, doubling off the left field wall.
“I was kind of sitting fastball,” said the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Stanford commit. “He threw me one inside (and I) didn’t really love it, and then I kind of noticed that he had a different grip when he came back to his glove. So then I was sitting slider and it happened—and I just hit it.”
Simple enough in theory, but much harder to do in practice.
Fourteen of the 17 pitchers who threw in the Classic got up to 93 mph, and each of the 17 arms threw at least 90 mph. Facing some of the elite arms in the country during one-inning stints is no easy task. And while his East squad ultimately came out on the losing end, third baseman Jordan Walker (Georgia) was another hitter who shined in the event, going 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and a walk.
“It’s super difficult,” said Walker, who is committed to Duke. “The first pitcher (Jared Kelley) was throwing gas—like 98. Next pitcher, he (Jared Jones) was throwing gas but from a different arm angle. They all had different arm angles, their balls moved different ways and the last guy (Max Carlson), his ball ran in a little bit and it’s just really tough to hit all these pitchers.”
A 6-foot-5, 220-pound infielder who moves surprisingly well for his size, Walker cited the frequency with which he's faced the top pitchers in the country throughout the summer as the main reason for his success. Walker has consistently shown impressive raw power and an advanced feel for the barrel across several showcase events.
“I’ve gotten to see a lot better competition than I did last summer, so that was great,” Walker said. “I’ve gotten to know (the pitchers) over the past couple days, so I’ve gotten to know how they pitch and how they throw. So I just remembered that and took their pitch frequencies into account and just tried to hit the ball.
“It’s definitely an honor to be called to this game. I’ve been watching it ever since I was a kid and I really wanted to be here, so to be here with all these players and playing this great competition, it’s really a blessing and an honor. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since they gave me the call in San Diego. Today, my team fell a little bit short, but it’s all in good fun and I’m friends with a lot of guys on the West squad so I was happy that some of them did well. My boy Drew over there hit a double on the wall, I thought it was going out.”
Three Pitchers Who Performed
There were a number of impressive performances during the Perfect Game All-American Classic this year, including plenty of premium fastball velocity (righthander Jared Kelly touched 98 mph and righties Alejandro Rosario and Mick Abel touched 97 mph) but three lefthanders made life particularly difficult for some of the elite hitters in the 2020 class.
Daxton Fulton, LHP, Mustang (Okla.) HS (Vanderbilt commit) — A 6-foot-6, 220-pound lefthander, Fulton threw the third inning for the West team and worked a quick, 1-2-3- inning while striking out the side. Fulton struck out Zac Veen (Florida), Yohandy Morales (Florida) and Jake DeLeo (Connecticut), retiring all three batters with a big, top-to-bottom curveball in the 75-79 mph range. Fulton got two whiffs on the pitch and paired it with a fastball in the 91-93 mph range, also throwing a mid-80s changeup that he spiked in the ground. Fulton’s curveball has the makings of a plus pitch with excellent depth and and impressive spin, and he did a nice job commanding the pitch in his brief outing.
Nate Savino, LHP, Potomac Falls HS, Sterling, Va. (Virginia commit) — The top-ranked lefthander in the class, Savino got the start for the East and didn’t disappoint. His slider was perhaps the best secondary offering of the game, as he generated three whiffs with the pitch (more than any other secondary offering in the game) and worked a solid inning. He struck out two batters and allowed a single to third baseman Cayden Wallace (Arkansas)—who went 1-for-1 with a walk—and forced one groundout. Savino throws from a low, three-quarter arm slot and pitched with a fastball in the 93-95 mph range with plenty of natural running and sinking life. His slider is a 77-79 mph breaking ball with plenty of horizontal movement and depth, and despite it’s shape and his lower slot, he consistently lands the pitch for strikes against batters of either hand and keeps the ball down in the zone.
Ronan Kopp, LHP, Scottsdale Christian Academy, Phoenix (Arizona State commit) — Kopp didn’t have the biggest pure stuff of the game, but he didn’t need it. He took the mound for the West in the sixth inning, striking out three batters and inducing a pop up to second—one of his strikeout victims reached first on a dropped third strike. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound lefty pitched in the 87-90 mph range with his fastball, and paired his heater with a few different secondary offerings. His most frequently used was a big, slow curveball that varied in speed from 69-75 mph, and while it could use more sharpness and bite, it has average spin and impressive depth. He also showed a slider that was more firm and sweepy in shape at 81 mph, and he threw a few low-80s changeups, though he didn’t land the latter pitch with much consistency in this outing. With more room to add weight and strength to his frame, Kopp is an intriguing projection lefty to keep an eye on.
Three Bats Who Broke Out
It’s more difficult to get an in-depth read on hitters in games like the Perfect Game All-American Classic, as hitters receive only a few at-bats in most occasions and have to adjust to different pitchers in each outing. Some hitters, like shortstop Ed Howard (Illinois)—who was hit by a pitch and walked—don't even get a chance to swing the bat. Still, here are a few hitters outside of Bowser and Walker who impressed.
Daniel Susac, C, Jesuit HS, Carmichael, Calif. (Oregon State commit) — A switch-hitting catcher listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Susac faced two righthanders in his two plate appearances Sunday night, but opted to hit as a righty in both trips to the plate. Despite the platoon disadvantage, Susac did fine for himself, drawing a walk against Ben Hernandez (Illinois) and hitting a hard ball (94 mph exit velocity) through the right side of the infield against a 92 mph fastball from Alejandro Rosario (Florida).
AJ Vukovich, 3B/1B, East Troy (Wisc.) HS (Louisville commit) — Vukovich looked out of sync during his first two at-bats of the game. In the second inning, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound corner infielder struck out on an 80 mph slider from righthander Alex Santos (New York) and then swung and missed on three separate occasions in the fifth inning against righthander Victor Mederos (Florida). He made an adjustment in his third trip to the plate though, and utilized his strength from the right side, driving an 80 mph breaking ball from Rosario to left-center field with a 96 mph exit velocity. Vukovich will need to refine his swing and cut down on his swing-and-miss, but when he’s synced up he can put some damage into a baseball.
Dylan Crews, OF, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS (Louisiana State commit) — Crews has struggled at times throughout this summer despite being one of the most acclaimed and well-rounded hitters in the class. While he went hitless in two at-bats Sunday night, Crews was responsible for one of the hardest hit balls and showed his ability to drive the ball with authority to the opposite field. After flying out to left on a 92-mph fastball from Mick Abel (Oregon) in his first at-bat, Crews crushed a pitch from lefthander Kyle Harrison (California) in his second trip to the plate, driving a deep fly ball to right-center field that came off his bat at 103 mph. The hit perhaps could have gone for extra bases, but West squad center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong (California) made a nice jump off the bat and ran a solid route to track the ball down.