SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Let there be no doubt whatsoever that the San Diego Show came to the Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass) with the intent of carting home championship hardware.
The eighth-seeded Show, the No. 3 team in Perfect Game’s most recent 18u National Travel Team Rankings, took a big step toward that goal when they whipped No. 1 seed Angels Blue, 9-0, in a quarterfinal contest Sunday afternoon at one of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ spring training practice fields at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
That win moved the Show (4-0-1) into Monday morning’s semifinal round, where they will face No. 5 seed 520 Elite 18u (5-0-0).The other PG/EvoShield Upperclass semifinal pits No. 2 San Diego Gamers (5-0-0) against the No. 14 AZ Athletics (4-0-1), giving the San Diego baseball community a real presence in the Arizona desert. The semis are slated for 9 a.m. (PT) with the Upperclass championship scheduled for 11:30 a.m.
But the Show and founder/head coach Brian Cain came here with a bit of an ulterior motive.
San Diego Show is partnering up with the Ohio Warhawks to put together a joint team to send to the PG WWBA World Championship Oct. 20-24 in Jupiter, Fla., the nation’s premier tournament in terms of showcasing the top high school talent in the land. There will be about 14 San Diego Show players on that team with the balance of the roster being supplied by the Warhawks.
“We came into this tournament to use it to get a leg-up for Jupiter. This is our primary focus, to get a leg-up for that,” Cain said after his team’s quarterfinal victory. “But we also came with the expectation to be playing on Monday. Pretty much every player on our team is already a D-I commitment or is D-I caliber. So, yeah, we expect to be playing on Monday but with the intention of getting everybody right for next month.”
Cain said the timing of the PG/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass) is very good in that regard.
“It gives us really four weeks to get home and work out and really tighten the screws on everything and really dial up the focus and work on some plays and work on our coverages – things like that – before we go to Jupiter,” he said. “We’re excited, and we’re taking a very talented group to Jupiter. We expect to be very competitive over there.”
The Show opened this tournament with a 4-4 tie against the Atlanta Blues Jays, but then rattled-off pool-play wins against the Strike Zone Cardinals (9-4) and the Murrieta Valley Hurricanes (8-0). They beat the defending tournament champion EDH Vipers, 9-1, in their playoff opener before knocking off the top-seeded Angels Blue.
“There are some good ballplayers here,” Cain said. “The thing for us is we have so many D-I guys it seems like we wear teams down over time. A lot of the games have been good early and then as the game has gone on we kind of open it up and just wear them out. That’s the mark of a good ballclub. No matter how it starts out we just grind away at them and seem to widen the run differential.”
Cain founded the Show about 10 or 11 years ago and the organization has established a solid history and reputation. The roster that is here this weekend is basically the same one that won the PG WWBA 2011 Grads or 18u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., in July.
The Show seems to excel when it travels greater distances. This isn’t by accident.
“Any time we travel for two hours or more, we travel to win. That’s always been our thing,” Cain said. “If we travel for more than two hours we expect to go and be very, very competitive and this is a five hour trip for us so we’re in that mode. If we’re a little closer to home the emphasis isn’t so much on winning but when we travel this far, or we go to Georgia or we go to Florida for the Perfect Game events, we expect to be competitive.”
Perfect Game All-American Trey Williams, one of the country’s top-ranked prospects (No. 6 nationally, No. 2 at third base) in the Class of 2012, was on the Show’s pre-tournament roster but the Pepperdine commit didn’t make the trip. Corey Oswalt, another top-ranked PG All-American who has committed to Oregon, was playing on Sunday, however, and even got a chance to take the mound and close out the win over the Angels Blue.
“We’re expanding on the pitching thing with him a little bit,” Cain said of Oswalt. “He hasn’t pitched in four years and we started him in the bullpen this summer. He’s already touching 90 (with his fastball) and maybe that will be an option for him in college as a two-way guy at some point as a back-up plan. He does have a real live arm and it’s real effortless. He could be a mid-90s guy here soon if we really put the pedal to the metal.”
Oswalt and Williams are only two of the many players who play with the Show who have already committed to D-I schools. Left-handers Ian Clarkin and Stephen Gonsalves are U of San Diego commits, middle infielder Gosuke Katoh is headed to UCLA, MIF Kevin Newman has committed to Arizona, outfielder Nick Ruppert is headed Dartmouth and an Ivy League education and right-hander Bobby Zarubin – the starter and winner in Sunday’s game against Angels Blue – has committed to Stanford.
Gonsalves is the nation’s No. 5-ranked national prospect – No. 1 left-hander – in the class of 2013.
Those guys have already committed. Other members of the Show have not, and there were at least a dozen college recruiters watching their quarterfinal game. That’s why Cain keeps bringing his team to PG events.
“For us personally, we think these are the best events around,” Cain said. “I don’t think anybody does it better than Perfect Game. I know our guys get a lot of benefit out of being here and taking advantage of all the (college) recruiters who come out to watch them.”