ACWORTH, Ga. – It’s not often a rising high school junior is at the center of attention at a tournament full of the best rising high school seniors in the country who will be eligible for the nearest Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Sure, you stumble across a rare young talent every once in a while, but Riley Pint has stolen the show and his performance at the WWBA 17u National Championship may suggest he is a diamond in the rough.
Wednesday morning, Pint took the hill at Allatoona High School for Mac-N-Seitz Foster in a decisive game against Knights Baseball 17u National that would go a long way toward determining who would advance out of pool play and onto the bracket round. Pint showed up more than ready for the challenge.
Pint came out firing on all cylinders, unleashing a vicious fastball that touched 96 mph (miles per hour) and sat between 91-94 mph. After overwhelming hitters with aggressive use of the fastball, Pint would come back with his 80-84 mph knuckle curveball; an extremely difficult pitch to throw that Pint has already begun to master.
“As good as the velocity is and the projection, it’s the knuckle curve that separates him, as it’s a plus-pitch with really good shape and velocity,” said Perfect Game scout Jheremy Brown.
“I learned it from Mike Macfarlane, one of the guys who started Mac-N-Seitz,” Pint said. “I just stuck with it the whole time and really like the way I throw it. It just feels good coming out of my hand, so I just keep with it.”
What may have been most impressive about Pint’s display on the mound was the fact that he maintained his velocity throughout the game. In fact, his 113thh pitch of the ballgame was a 94 mph strike.
“I though I did pretty good,” said Pint. “My control wasn’t all that good today, but it happens. You walk people. But I felt like I battled back pretty good after I’d walk somebody. The first five innings my knuckle curve was working really well for me. I could throw that first strike whenever I wanted to and then usually my fastball helped me throughout the game, especially the late innings.”
The Lenexa, Kan. native ended up going the distance, striking out nine batters to help his team to a 4-2 win and move to the top of the pool, putting them one win away from advancing to bracket play. Knights Baseball 17u National was 6-0 heading into the matchup.
“It was a big win for our team,” Pint said. “We needed this win to maybe get into bracket play. We have to win both games today to get into bracket play.”
The team accomplished that in their second game of the day with a 4-0 victory over FTB Mizuno to take the bracket and advance to the knockout rounds. It was the team's third game in less then 24 hours.
A large contingent of recruiting coordinators and area scouts lined up behind the home plate stadium seats with radar guns in hand for almost two hours, amazed at the fact that Pint was not losing much velocity at all. Brown was impressed enough with Pint’s first outing of the tournament Friday that he sat through Wednesday’s outing as well.
Brown’s extensive scouting notes from Pint’s Friday outing read like this:
“Along with the stuff Pint brings on the mound, the frame and build is exactly how one would create it if they were able to mold together a prototypical frame. He stands 6-foot-4 with long limbs, a high waist, lean build, broad shoulders, and room to fill with added strength… He is able to generate tremendous arm speed with an arm action that is loose and easy, helping him to create that big fastball velocity… As the innings progressed, the uncommitted Pint maintained that velocity very well, working in the 93-95 mph range. His two-seam fastball shows very late running action at 92-93 mph with the ability to locate it low in the zone…. The common theme amongst the four offerings from Pint is power and life. His knuckle-curve is his put-away pitch with late depth and sharp life at 84 mph, and when it was put in play the pitch was pounded into the ground… While maintaining the same arm speed and action, Pint gets fading life on his changeup low in the zone, giving him four pitches, all of which he can throw for strikes.”
The slender right-hander threw two complete seven-inning games for Mac-N-Seitz Foster in pool play action, combining for 16 strikeouts altogether.
The sky is the limit for the 16-year-old hurler who’s just now playing in his first ever Perfect Game event, and he’s showed out in a big way. Pint went from a seemingly unknown commodity to one of the most desired talents in the 2016 high school class in a matter of days. For a rising high school junior to stand out among the thousands of kids who fill the rosters of 304 participating teams speaks volumes.
“It’s awesome,” Pint said about the sudden influx of recruiting coordinators and area scouts who have gathered to check out the rumored Pint. “I shouldn’t pay attention to it, but its just kind of there, so you notice it a little bit more than you usually should.”
It can often be an eye-opening experience for players who come to Perfect Game tournaments from areas not as known for the baseball talent they produce. The game is often said to be played mush faster in the southern states like Georgia and Florida, who produce a crop of talent on a consistent basis. Pint has adjusted to the level of competition seamlessly, however.
“I went to LakePoint and wow, those fields were amazing,” said Pint. “This is just a great tournament that’s being run right now – 304 of the best teams in the nation. It’s good to play against this kind of competition.”
“It’s nothing like they take it down here,” Pint said when comparing baseball where he’s from to the baseball he’s seeing in Georgia. “I try to take it as seriously as these guys do down here, but most of these guys might play baseball and that’s it. Most guys in the Midwest, we play two or three sports, so we get more off time than these guys do. I think being here benefits me because when I pitch, I’m facing the best competition there is here. It gets me better than I would if I were to just face Midwest competition.”
Pint is very serious about his baseball career. His dad, in fact was a pitcher at Iowa State. But, he will openly admit he has a similar passion with basketball and greatly benefits from the conditioning required to play the sport.
“Throughout the whole summer I play basketball, too, so that keeps me in good conditioning shape,” said Pint. “I love basketball. I love playing it. It’s just a passion, just like baseball.”
He continuously works hard at both, and it shows through his performances on the diamond and on the hardwood. The hard work he has put in currently has him ranked No. 8 in the 2016 high school class for baseball, with many anticipating he could shoot up to the No. 1 spot after his showing at this week’s WWBA 17u National Championship.
“I think having a good work ethic is probably the most important thing because if you don’t have a good work ethic, then you’re not gonna do well, and if you don’t do well, then you’re not gonna be happy with your results.”
It’s crazy to think the book on Pint is essentially just getting started. Now that he’s emerged onto the national scene, ‘Riley Pint’ will become a very familiar name for years to come. Well aware Pint is still two years from draft eligibility, is it crazy to think he could possibly be the first player in MLB Draft history to be taken first overall from the state of Kansas? Pint is a name worth remembering.