TOMBALL, Texas – The man in charge for the Dallas Patriots 18u-Sherard – namely head coach Brandon Sherard – knows exactly what he wants to achieve by bringing the team to this weekend’s PG WWBA South Qualifier. Sherard and the Patriots 18u team members also feel like they have a little something to prove after a summer that was at times simultaneously gratifying and disappointing.
The Patriots 18u-Sherard opened play at the 4th annual PG WWBA South Qualifier Saturday morning with a satisfying 4-0, six-inning victory over the Houston-based NB Rangers at the Premier Baseball of Texas facility. It was a nice way to kickoff pool-play in a tournament at which the champion earns an automatic paid invitation to the PG WWBA World Champion in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 24-28.
Grabbing that paid invite isn’t Sherard’s main reason for having his team here this weekend, however.
“I’m excited to have the boys out here and it’s good to get back out here playing; we’re excited to get going again,” he said Saturday before adding a quick caveat. “We’re here to get these kids looked at (by college coaches) and get these kids signed. At the end of the day, we do this to get these kids off to the next level, so anytime we can showcase these kids out here, that’s what we come out here for.”
This is a team that both on paper and out on the field looks capable of challenging for a PG WWBA South Qualifier title. Four of the players on the roster are ranked in the top-500 nationally in the classes of 2014 and 2015 and at least another half-dozen are ranked in the top-1,000 or listed as “high follows.”
It’s the same group that played under the Dallas Patriots 17u-Sherard name all summer, with a couple of arms added for insurance. The core group of this team has been playing together since they were 13 or 14 years old and Sherard has coached them every step of the way.
“We added a couple of arms every year here and there and went back and got two new arms and two new position guys,” Sherard said. “The core has been together since they were 14, so this is their last year together.”
Tristan Metten, a 2015 shortstop from Lewisville, Texas, and a junior at Prestonwood Christian Academy, has committed is ranked 99th nationally in the 2015 class (No. 13 in Texas) and has committed to Texas A&M. Metten attended both the Perfect Game Junior National Showcase in Minneapolis and the PG Underclass All-American Games showcase in San Diego this summer, and was looking forward to getting back on the field Saturday morning.
“This is the start of our fall, so everybody’s looking to get back and see all of our teammates and get back to competition,” Metten said. “This is the South Qualifier and it’s a pretty big tournament; we did pretty well last year so we hope we can come here and win it this year.”
The Patriots tied for third-place at the 2012 PG WWBA South Qualifier, a rain-shortened event in which the top-four finishers were placed according to their playoff seedings.
2014 right-hander Connor McMann out of Flower Mound, Texas, and Liberty Christian High School, is ranked in the top-500 nationally and No. 58 in Texas. He got the start Saturday against the NB Rangers and worked 3 1/3 innings, giving up three hits with seven strikeouts and four walks. He also helped himself at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI. McMann is a West Virginia recruit.
“Anytime we can come out and play anywhere other than our hometown it’s always a big deal,” he said Saturday. “It’s a lot of fun getting together with your teammates and staying in a hotel and being together with them. It’s great to come down and prove ourselves to other competition outside our Metroplex and we’re all real excited to go through it.
“The last two years, especially, we’ve come together and we’re real close, so we expect great things out of ourselves.”
Other highly regarded players on the Patriots 18u-Sherard roster include outfielder Darius Hill (2015, Plano, Texas), ranked No. 160 nationally and No. 25 in Texas, and outfielder/catcher Chase Sarchet (2014, Lubbock, Texas), ranked 345/43.
There seems to be a consensus among the players that the team grew closer together as a team throughout what proved to be a challenging summer. They went on the road to Marietta, Ga., and Goodyear, Ariz., to get exposure in front of as many scouts and college coaches as possible, and that was definitely a positive.
“A lot of our guys got some good college looks and overall it was a pretty good team experience,” Metten said. “We all became pretty close, not only as teammates but as best friends, so it was pretty fun.”
They also found out that team bonding and forming friendships doesn’t always add up to wins on the field. The Patriots 17u-Sherard’s first PG national championship stop was at the PG WWBA 17u National Championship in Marietta, a rain-plagued event at which they finished 1-3-0. From there they were invited to the prestigious, 16-team 17u Perfect Game World Series in Goodyear, where they really stumbled, leaving the desert with a humbling 0-6-1 record.
“Pitching and defense has been our strong point all year but we just didn’t have the defense and pitching out there,” said Sherard, who has been coaching in the Dallas Patriots organization for eight years. “So we feel like we’re out here (at the South Qualifier) ready to make a statement.”
McMann echoed the thoughts of his coach:
“We didn’t play as well as we should have or could have, but it was a lot of fun playing against (that level of) competition,” he said. “The competition was real great and we all know that we can compete against that; we expect ourselves to do great and anything less than that is sub-par to us.”
With McMann and Metten being the only two players on the Patriots’ roster with college commitments, the other guys have a lot to show this weekend. McMann received his first offer from West Virginia, and with his parents and grandfather all being West Virginia alumni, he jumped at the chance to head Morgantown.
“It’s a great place; I love it up there,” he said. “The atmosphere is great, the coaches are all from Texas and I know a bunch of guys that are going up there, so all together it was one of the best decisions for me and I feel real comfortable going there.”
The offer from Texas A&M was also Metten’s first, and despite getting a few other offers as the summer progressed, he said he felt like College Station was where he needed to be. Based on this team’s personality – and talent – Sherard is certain more offers and commitments are sure to come – especially, perhaps, if the Pats win their way into the playoffs.
“They’re a laid-back group but they know when it’s game-time and they strap it on and get going,” he said. “We feel like we have some unfinished business (from the summer) so we’re here to take care of business and get the ‘Ws’.”