GLENDALE, Ariz. – When CBA Marucci 2016 top prospect Blake Rutherford spoke with Perfect Game on the first day of the 16u Perfect Game MLK Championship last Friday, it was done so with an air of humility, deference and confidence not often found in a 16-year-old high school sophomore.
“I look forward to showing what I can do and showing my abilities and showing what I can do against some of the other best players in the nation,” he said when asked if he had any expectations of the four days that lay ahead. “I also like coming out here and competing with my team and hopefully getting the win every time.”
As the final tally was taken late Monday afternoon, that would be check, check and, finally, check.
CBA (California Baseball Academy) Marucci 2016 entered the 16u PG MLK Championship playoffs Monday morning as the No. 2 seed, but the truth is there was very little separation between the top five seeds in the tournament.
Following 9-1 and 3-1 wins over the No. 7 So Cal Cavs and No. 3 Las Vegas Elite in the first round and the semifinal round of the playoffs, respectively, head coach Jaylon Monette’s CBA Marucci 2016 needed just about everything in its closet to beat the San Diego Show, 5-4, in Monday’s afternoon’s championship game at Camelback Ranch.
“I’d say it was really satisfying especially because, like a lot of people at this time of year, we had about five or six key guys that either went down with injuries because they were training and trying to get extra work in, or their high school coaches wouldn’t let them come for some reason, “ Monette said following the championship victory Monday.
“Everyone deals with that kind of adversity … but we were able to power that ‘next man up’ attitude and the guys really seized the opportunity and did a good job with it. I’m very proud of them.”
CBA led 3-0 after two innings, 4-3 after four and 5-3 after six in the title game, and held off every threat the Show could muster.
Rutherford was 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI and a run scored in the championship game. Josh Stephen was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run and Henry Martinez was 2-for-3 with a run scored. The Show’s Mickey Moniak, the No. 7-ranked prospect in the class of 2016 who has already committed to UCLA, went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
Monette stuck with starter Reggie Lawson the entire way. Lawson, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander out of Adelento, Calif., is the No. 14-ranked national prospect in the class of 2016, and he worked seven innings on Monday, giving up four earned runs on nine hits with eight strikeouts and two walks.
Rutherford, a 2016 outfielder from Simi Valley, Calif., ranked No. 5 in the national class of 2016, was a monster at this event over the past four days. He was 8-for-12 at the plate (.667) with a double, three home runs, 10 RBI, 10 runs scored and an orbit-circling OBPS of 2.278. He was named the tournament Most Valuable Player.
“I would put Blake right up there with some very special talented young men,” he has coached previously, Monette told PG this weekend. “He’s very gifted and still works extremely hard and that’s what I like about him.”
The No. 3-seeded Las Vegas Elite (4-1) came up just short of the championship game after losing to CBA Marucci 2016 in the semifinals, but that didn’t keep their top prospect from being recognized at the tournament’s conclusion.
Dakota Donovan, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound 2016 right-hander from Washington, Utah, who is ranked 15th nationally, won the Most Valuable Pitcher Award after allowing no earned runs on two hits over nine innings of work with 23 strikeouts, four walks and one hit batsmen. Pity that hit batsmen.
CBA Marucci 2016 beat the Las Vegas Elite, 3-1, in the semifinals; the Show topped GBG Marucci Navy, 5-3, in the other semifinal game.
GBG Marucci Navy was rewarded with the No. 1 seed after pool-play and CBA Marucci 2016 earned the No. 2 seed. No. 3 Las Vegas Elite and No. 4 T-Rex Baseball rounded out the top four seeds in the eight-team field.
In first round play Monday morning, GBG blanked No. 6 Team Northwest (2-2), 6-0; the No. 5 San Diego Show upset T-Rex Baseball (3-1), 5-3; CBA Marucci 2016 whipped the No. 7 So Cal Cavs (2-2), 9-1; and the Las Vegas Elite got past No. 6 NorCal Baseball (2-2), 2-1.
When it was over, it was CBA Marucci 2016’s moment in the spotlight.
“They really wanted to go out there and show everybody the kind of ballclub that we have with the guys we have out,” Monette said. “But with the guys we have here, we wanted to go out there and compete and put forth the great effort.”
2014 16u PG MLK Championship runner-up: San Diego Show
2014 16u PG MLK Championship MVP: Blake Rutherford, CBA Marucci 2016