With the PG Super25 17u Northeast Super Regional taking place from 6/30/14-7/2/14, the New York Grays and their head coach David Owens will have the rare opportunity to compete in a high-quality tournament without having to travel across the country.
The Grays are an elite program in the Tri-State area, and Owens expects nothing short of excellence from his team during the Super25 Super Regional. However, the Grays will play short-handed, as they are missing their top two starting pitchers, Tyler Fernandez from Rye Country Day and Ian Miller from Berkeley Carroll. Fernandez and Miller are both committed to pitch in the Ivy League next season, Fernandez for Cornell and Miller for Harvard, and losing them for this tournament is far from ideal for coach Owens.
Still, the Grays expect to do well, even without their two star starters available. They have a number of pitchers that they also rely on, and Grays pitching coach Walter Paller insisted, “we have a really deep staff.”
The top guy that the Grays will rely on in Fernandez and Miller’s place is right-hander Alex Cuas. According to Owens, Cuas missed all of last summer due to injury, but has had a really strong season, and has as much talent as any pitcher on the staff. Paller described Cuas, saying, “he’s 85-88 with a devastating breaking ball, hard curveball, and is developing his changeup. He has a big-pro body with tremendous upside.”
As the team’s pitching coach, Paller also has a lot of faith in right-hander Will Brooking. “He’s a bull, very competitive, really attacks, a guy that is fun to play behind because he has positive energy and works very quickly. He’s not afraid of any moment or game. We can use him as a closer or a starter. When we’re in trouble, Will is one of the guys we go to.” Brooking stands at just 5’9”, but the Grays will need his competitiveness on the mound to carry them through some games this week.
Owens also believes right-handers Musa Matiwane and Joel Torres have the talent and mentality capable of carrying the Grays to the Super Regional championship. As a staff, it will be a true team effort as the Grays compete against the best from their region.
On offense, coach Owens believes, “it’s more of a collective effort, we need to rely on guys doing their job, moving guys over, playing fundamental baseball and lockdown defense, that is what is going to take us far.”
Still, the top of the Grays’ lineup ignites their offense. “Louis Arias, our shortstop, he bats leadoff or second for us, he’s one of our big sticks in the lineup,” said Owens. “He hits to all fields, is very aggressive on the base paths, we need him to get on when he leads off for us. We rely on him a lot.”
After Arias, catcher and third baseman Andy Camilo and outfielder Zach DeThomasis are key cogs in the Grays lineup. Camilo, “usually bats third for us, and we rely on him to drive in runs. DeThomasis is a left-handed hitter who plays center field and swings the bat very well from the left side.” According to Owens, the group of Arias, Camilo, and DeThomasis, “really spark our offense. If they go, we go.”
Heading into this weekend, the Grays are thrilled that they have an opportunity to compete in a Perfect Game tournament without having to travel. Usually, the Grays avoid competing locally, as they feel like they can find the best competition in Perfect Game tournaments in the south. Coach Owens explained, “the best teams are attracted to Perfect Game, and that’s what we’re about. We want the best competition.”
As a result, the Grays have traveled long distances so their kids can play the best teams in the country. “We’ve been traveling down to Fort Myers and Georgia for the last 5-6 years,” said Owens. “It becomes expensive. We’re a non-profit, and a lot of our kids are from the inner city, and it’s expensive to travel so much.”
Despite the expense, Owens feels like it is important for his players’ futures to travel to Perfect Game tournaments so that they can play the best competition. “Our 2012 team had eight kids in the draft, and a bunch of kids starting at big-time Division I programs. The reason why these kids were able to acclimate so well was because of the Perfect Game tournaments, and seeing the pitchers that they would see in the SEC at a Perfect Game tournament when they were 16 or 17. It’s a challenge for the kids, but that’s what our program is about, we avoid the local tournaments and we target Perfect Game tournaments because it gives our kids the best competition and exposure.”
With the Super25 series, the Grays can now play the best competition in a Perfect Game tournament without having to incur the travel expenses they usually have to pay. The Grays should be a tough out in the Northeast Super Regional, as they have a legitimate chance of winning and representing New York in the Super25 National Championship.