HOUSTON – All of the usual suspects were there at the top of the leader board at the conclusion of last year’s PG WWBA South Qualifier: the champion Houston Banditos Black; runner-up Action Baseball Club 18u from Austin, Texas; and the third-place finishers Houston Heat and Dallas Patriots.
Based on the seedings going into the playoffs at the tournament, that 1-2-3-3 finish was pretty predictable. In fact, the final order of finish at the 2012 PG WWBA South Qualifier was determined by the playoff seedings after heavy rain forced the cancellation of the event before its on-the-field conclusion.
The sixth PG WWBA South Qualifier is scheduled for this weekend with the Banditos, Action Baseball Club, Heat and Patriots all scheduled to compete again, this time with a hot and relatively dry forecast in place through the weekend.
Opening games at the 64-team tournament will be played Friday night at the Premier Baseball of Texas facility in Tomball and the Baseball USA facility in Houston, and play will continue through the weekend at a total of 11 Houston-area sites, including Rice University and the University of Houston. The tournament is scheduled to conclude on Monday at Baseball USA with the two semifinal games and the championship game.
This is a Texas ho-down, to be sure, with 61 teams from the Lone Star State, two from Louisiana and one from Oklahoma comprising the 64-team field. The grand prize is certainly worth the price of admission: the champion receives an automatic paid invitation to the blockbuster PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 24-28.
Looking for a favorite? There are plenty to choose from, beginning with the defending champion Banditos 17u Black, which has dropped “Houston” from its official team name. Houston Banditos Houston and Houston Banditos Texas are also in the field.
The Banditos 17u Black roster reads like one an NCAA Division I head coach might submit for a game at the College World Series in Omaha. No fewer than 10 Banditos 17u Black team members have committed to D-I schools, including the following:
Perfect Game All-American outfielder Stone Garrett (2014, Sugar Land, Texas), a Rice University commit ranked No. 53 nationally; shortstop Justin Twine (2014, Hemphill, Texas), Texas Christian, No. 63; right-hander Jake Jarvis (2014, Spring, Texas), Texas A&M, No. 118; left-hander Nick Kennedy (2015, College Station, Texas), Texas, No. 165; right-hander Ricardo Salinas (2014, Houston), Rice, No. 174.
Outfielder Patrick Mathis (2014, Venus, Texas), Texas, No. 241; outfielder Corbin Martin (2014, Cypress, Texas), Texas A&M, No. 254; shortstop Connor Wang (2014, Pearland, Texas), U. of Houston, No. 466; and left-hander John Henry Styles (2014, Houston), Stanford, top-500. Uncommitted right-hander Landon Miner (2016, Tomball, Texas) is ranked No. 67 among the nation’s high school sophomores.
The Beaumont, Texas-based Texas Sun Devils are also carrying a loaded roster, led by 2013 PG All-American Ti’quan Forbes (2014, Columbia, Miss.), a Mississippi commit ranked No. 17 in the nation.
Right-hander Devon Roedahl (2015, Beaumont, Texas), uncommitted, No. 25; Right-hander Chase Shugart (2015, Bridge City, Texas), Texas-Austin, No. 114; left-hander Kale Breaux (2015, Sulphur, La.), Louisiana State, No. 272; and third baseman Bryce Jordan (2014, Lake Charles, La.), LSU, No. 381, further fortify the Sun Devils’ roster.
The Houston Heat Silver is another team bringing a wagon full of firepower to the event this weekend, led by the 2015 right-hander Stephen Kolek from Shepherd, Texas, ranked No. 36 in his class. His brother Tyler Kolek, a Perfect Game All-American who is ranked No. 4 in the 2014 class, is on the Heat Silver's roster but is not expected to pitch.
The Heat Silver also features shortstop Jonathan Ducoff (2014, Kingwood, Texas), a Baylor commit ranked No. 69, and right-hander Michael Rodgers (2014, Houston), a Rice recruit ranked in the top-500.
Other highly ranked prospects from the class of 2015 expected to perform this weekend include: outfielder Ryan Johnson (College Station, Texas), No. 5, Twelve Baseball Academy, uncommitted; catcher Michael Hickman (Katy, Texas), No. 17, Marucci Elite Houston, Oklahoma; and right-hander Ryan Cole McKay (Spring Branch, Texas), No. 28, Team Citius USA, uncommitted.
The Houston Heat Black roster includes a couple of highly regarded 2015 Houston prospects, both of whom have committed to Texas: middle-infielder Kody Clemens (ranked No. 252) and outfielder Tyler Rand (top-1,000).
Seventy-two PG WWBA South Qualifier alumni have been drafted since its inception (the event ran in 2004 and 2005, and then resumed in 2010), including nine first-round selections. More than 470 alumni committed to colleges after their participation.