American Heritage boasts arguably the strongest infield any team with a pair of top 200 prospects in Triston Casas and Cory Acton, who are capable of playing every infield position between the two of them. Casas has some of the best power in the class and Acton has a polished hit tool and a strong arm from the hot corner. In addition, Bailey Mantilla is a Miami commit who can get into the low 90s.
"Anytime you go (to Cary) with a USA team or my high school team, it's all about winning, Casas said. "So I always go there with the same mindset of trying to help my team out and trying to help my team win.
First round matchup: Santiago
Calvary Christian has the 18U team's utility man in Delgado, who is capable of playing every position on the field aside from catcher, though he likely first best in a corner at the next level. The switch-hitting Florida International commit offers power from both sides of the plate and should serve as a dangerous bat in the middle of the lineup. Righthander Christian Scott is a Florida commit with projection, but has already gotten up into the mid 90s.
First round matchup: Hattiesburg
Cole Henry dealt with some injuries over the summer and wasn't seen much, giving scouts another reason to stop by Cary this March. Henry is a 6-foot-4 righthander committed to Lousiana State who flashed an impressive curveball early last summer at Perfect Game National. Florence also has a big, two-way player in lefthander/first baseman Evan Taylor who is committed to Arkansas.
First round matchup: Orange Lutheran
George W. Jenkins
Jenkins doesn't have a top 200 player on the roster, but they have two who were right on the edge in OF/LHP Brady Allen and 3B/SS Brandon Howlett. Allen is committed to South Carolina and has great instincts in the outfield as well as a fastball in the upper 90s with run from the left side on the mound. Howlett is a Florida State commit with good hands in the infield and some impressive raw power.
First round matchup: Mount Carmel
The host team for the 2018 tournament, Green Hope isn't just here because the school is about as close to the complex as you could possibly get. There's real talent on this Green Hope roster starting with SS/OF Jordyn Adams, who's committed to North Carolina (for baseball and football, as a talented wide receiver). Adams also participated in the Under Armour All-America Game last summer.
"We're excited to have them host and be in this tournament," Blood said. "Hopefully the local community will get behind them and walk over to the field and see them play."
First round matchup: Walton
Just one state away, Hanover and 3B/RHP Jack Dragum won't have far to drive to get to the NHSI, and the Virginia commit isn't the only player worth watching with this team. SS Nick Zona showed some potential with the bat at last summer's East Coast Pro showcase despite a slight build.
First round matchup: John Curtis
OF Joe Gray Jr. is no stranger to Cary, but this time he's bringing one of the most talented teams in the deep south with him, including OF/3B Dextor Jordon (committed to Louisiana-Lafayette) and RHP/SS A.J. Stinson (committed to Alabama State). Gray is one of the most athletic and toolsy players in the 2018 class, while Jordon showed off an advanced hit tool at Perfect Game National last summer. This will be a fun team to watch, and certainly will be looking to prove that Mississippi can hang with the rest of them.
"Very excited," Gray said. "A lot of teams from Mississippi don't really get the opportunity to go to that tournament, so for us to be picked to go, a big thank you for acknowledging us as a team."
First round matchup: Calvary Christian
John Curtis won the Division I Louisiana State championships last year, and will bring many of the players who were involved in that run to Cary. One of the interesting 2018 players to keep an eye on is Brandon Davis-Micheu, who is a small infielder, but has some defensive ability in a strong arm and quick feet despite being a bit raw currently.
First round matchup: Hanover
A California powerhouse, Mater Dei should automatically be considered one of the favorites to take home the championship this season, having already done so twice. The school has one of the most talented outfields of the event with Oregon commit Vinny Tosti and Stanford commit Grant Burton. SS Emilio Rosas is as solid as they come on the infield with a strong arm and a polished bat at the plate.
First round matchup: Sandra Day O'Connor
Mountain Ridge brings in the most highly-ranked pitcher of the event in No. 9 LHP Matthew Liberatore, who has excellent command of three pitches and the talent to pitch his way to the very top of draft boards this June. Scouts will be all over Liberatore, who has tons of projection left in the tank with an extremely clean delivery and a 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame.
"I'm super excited," Liberatore said. "That complex was one of the nicest complexes I've played at ever and the area around the field, I know a lot of the host families live around there and they are all really cool. So I'm excited for (my teammates) to get to experience that culture and the beautiful whether and play on the stadium (field) which is absolutely amazing."
First round matchup: Trinity Prep
The defending champs have the No. 2 pitcher of the event after Liberatore, thanks to Cole Winn transferring from Colorado last summer.
"I didn't know anything about him so I made a couple of phone calls to see about him," Borba said about the Mississippi State commit. "And sure enough first day of school he shows up on campus and the family moved out here and as a coach, getting a kid as talented as he is is obviously great for your team, but there are always concerns about the makeup, the character of the kid and how he's going to fit in, especially a senior.
"And Cole's come into our program and not only is he going to make a huge impact for us on the field, but he's made an impact in the weight room, out on the practice field... He's really fit in with the team."
First round matchup: Florence
Sandra Day O'Connor
3B Nolan Gorman is the top prospect with Sandra Day O'Connor and is arguably the most powerful bat of the tournament, in addition to being a terrific defender at third with a plus arm. The bracket also works out to where Gorman could be facing fellow Arizona product and friend Matthew Liberatore in the championship game.
"Yeah these two guys are best friends," Blood said about Gorman and Liberatore. "They know each other really well. They're kind of opposites in personality which is kind of fun to see.
"They were roommates for the 18U team all summer and just seeing that camaraderie really helped our team in terms of the makeup of it. And a lot of fun to be around."
Before that matchup happens though, a difficult first round game awaits. Oregon State commit Jayce Easley is another player to watch with Sandra Day O'Connor.
First round matchup: Mater Dei
Santiago brings in the top prospect of the event in No. 5 SS Brice Turang, who is polished in every area of the game. He's at least a plus runner and likely a 70 on the 20-80 scout scale, has great defensive instincts and hands, and one of the best hit tools in the 2018 class to go along with an incredibly discerning batter's eye. His first round matchup will pit him against American Heritage and Triston Casas--two players who have been on Team USA's 18U team together the last two years.
"It should be a lot of fun to watch," Blood said of the Turang-Casas matchup. "These two guys are great friends. Turang plays shortstop and Casas at first base. They've known each other for at least two years. It should be a lot of fun to see."
First round matchup: American Heritage
RHP Slade Cecconi is the top prospect with Trinity Prep, and a first round matchup with Mountain Ridge leaves the tantalizing possibility of a Liberatore-Cecconi matchup on day one. Cecconi has some of the most talent of any player in this event, and wasn't seen as often as scouts would have liked this summer. He's got a four-pitch mix and has been up to 96-97 mph with two distinct breaking balls and a big, 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame. Cecconi is committed to Miami.
First round matchup: Mountain Ridge
The Georgia powerhouse came close to winning the NHSI a few years ago, playing in the 2016 semi-final, but will get the chance again in 2018 with No. 56 LHP Luke Bartnicki serving as the team's ace. Bartnicki has added a ton of muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame this winter while competing with his team's swim team and can get into the low-to-mid 90s with a fastball out of a lower slot, as well as a developing slider. Walton will take on host Green Hope on the stadium field following the NHSI opening ceremonies.
First round matchup: Green Hope