Ga. — Hitting a game-winning home run in the last inning is
something every young baseball player dreams of. On Monday at the 2012 PG/WWBA 18u National Championship, Danville Hoots Zoots’ Austin Rei
(2012, Campolindo HS, Calif.) lived it.
Zoots entered play Monday tied atop the Pool G standings with CageRat
Baseball 18u, a Colorado-based team who was 4-0 with a plus-31 run
differential. The two teams squared off on field two at the East Cobb
Complex in front of hundreds of parents, coaches and scouts.
sole possession of first-place on the line, Rei broke the game’s
1-1 in the top of the seventh, crushing a 2-1 pitch over the 16-foot
fence in left field.
wasn’t expecting that,” Rei admitted after the game. “But it
felt pretty good. To get that one in the seventh inning was really
special and I’m just glad I was able to help my team in a victory.”
high school teammate, LHP Matt Ladrech (2014, Campolindo HS, Calif.)
started and pitched five innings for the Zoots. Robbie Tenerowicz
(2013, Campolindo HS, Calif.)—who was invited to the 2012 PG
National Showcase because of his bat—pitched two spotless innings
to close out the game, striking out three while touching 88 mph.
was a heck of a team; they have some good players,” Zoots’ Head
Coach, Jon Zuber said of CageRat Baseball 18u after the game. “They
had some good approaches at the plate. The guy who was starting for
them (Marco Lovato) had some downhill plane on his fastball and he
gave us some trouble. But we found a way, our pitcher was able to
keep us in the ball game and we were able to squeak one out there at
the end. (Rei) is a heck of a player. He’s a really talented
catcher and we’re spoiled to have him.”
five tournament games, Zoots’ pitching has allowed just four earned
runs in 35 innings, striking out 38. Kevin Flemer (2013, St. Mary’s
College HS, Calif.) and Trevor Bettencourt (2012, St. Francis HS,
Calif.) have played a large role in that success. Flemer (who is
committed to Oregon State) touched 87 mph on the gun and struck out
10 in seven shutout innings Friday. Bettencourt peaked at 86 mph
Saturday, striking out nine in seven innings.
key to their success—as the coaches stressed after the game—has
been the limited amount of walks (four) they’ve issued.
been pulling these games out somehow,” Coach Zuber said. “It’s
a testament to these kids, they go out there and they battle.”
Saturday, 2015 graduate Joe DeMers pitched six strong innings for the
Zoots, striking out six. He was in the upper-80s consistently, even
touching 90 mph. In the same game, the 15-year-old DeMers—playing
in an 18u tournament—whacked a two-run homer over the center field
wall at Kell High School.
Zuber described the 6-foot-1, 215-pound DeMers as “fearless.” And
why wouldn’t he be? According to PG Scouting Coordinator, Ben
Collman, DeMers is one of the top players in the 2015 class.
was 87-88 mph and we’ve heard he’s up to the low-90s already,
which is amazing for a 15-year-old," Collman said. “He also has a
lot of power in the bat. So if you’re talking about the 2015 class,
he probably fits right in near the top.”
isn’t the only Zoot getting national attention. In fact, many of
them have already committed to major Division-I schools. Tenerowicz
is going to California, and Drew Jackson (2012, Miramonte HS, Calif.)
is a Stanford recruit. Josh Cushing (2012, Campolindo HS, Calif.)
will join Rei at Washington, as will Braden Bishop (2012, St. Francis
was ranked No. 110 overall by PG in the 2012 draft class after
attending the 2011 National Showcase. He was drafted in the 36th round by the Braves in last month’s draft, but broke his hand
earlier this spring.
hurts to lose him because he’s a heck of a player,” Coach Zuber
said. “Bishop is the type of player that can change the game all by
himself. He’s got to be one of the top center fielders in the
only are the Zoots without Bishop, but they’re missing a few
pitchers who weren’t able to come to Georgia. The team’s next game is
Tuesday at 2:00 against the South Florida Bandits Prospects at the
Cartersville Complex. Keeping their perfect record won’t be easy.
have to find some pitchers. I don’t have much pitching left,”
Coach Zuber said. “We’re going to have to piece something
together. There are going to be some guys that are called on that
maybe haven’t pitched on their high school team.”
or lose, Rei is enjoying the Perfect Game experience.
played (in a PG event) with the Marlins Scout team in Florida last
fall,” he said. “This is a totally different atmosphere here and
I’m just really happy to be in this situation right now. We’re
definitely having a great time facing some quality teams and quality
pitching that you don’t see during the high school season. It’s
good preparation for college.”
Zuber echoed Rei’s excitement.
kids really enjoy being around each other and they have a lot of fun
playing,” he said. “I tip my hat to them. As coaches, we just try
to stay out of the way and let them play.”