MARIETTA, Ga. -- It was an outcome that spoke volumes about the parity that surely exists at the inaugural 16u Perfect Game World Series, being played this week at the East Cobb Complex and on a handful of area high school fields.
In the first game of the prestigious 16-team event, powerful Marucci Elite and a hastily assembled Team Citius put on a classic pitchers' duel while battling to a 3-3 tie. That tie showing up in each team's record -- as opposed to a loss -- could be huge as the week winds down.
The Marucci-Citius contest got the ball rolling on three exclusive PG tournaments being staged here Tuesday through Sunday. The 14u and 15u PG World Series are being played in addition to the 16u PG WS, and these three tournaments come on the heels of the 17u PG World Series held last week in Peoria, Ariz.
There are 12 teams in the 14u PG WS, and 16 each in the 15u and 16u PG WS. All 44 teams started off with single games Tuesday and the 14u's will continue with single games each day through Saturday. The 15u's and 16u's play double-headers Wednesday and Thursday before returning to single games Friday and Saturday.
Both Marucci Elite and Team Citius got terrific starting pitching Tuesday morning. Marucci right-hander Alex Lange (2014, Lee's Summit, Mo., HS) -- ranked 34th in the nation in the class of '14 -- pitched a complete game six-hitter, and allowed two earned runs and struck out 12. Citius righty Reece Calvert (2014, Plano East HS, Texas) gave up seven hits in 5 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs with nine strikeouts.
"I thought Lange really threw well -- he punched out 12 guys and commanded everything," Marucci head coach Justin Cryer said. "We couldn't get anything going early; (Calvert) kept us off-balance early, beating us with his fastball, he had a good breaking ball -- that guy pitched his butt off."
Citius put up three in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a two-run single from Mark Venice (2014, Seton Hall Prep, Bayonne, N.J.) but Marucci came back with two in the sixth and the single tying run in the top of the seventh.
John Thomas Mauldin (2014, St. Michael HS, Baton Rouge, La.) -- ranked 51st -- had an RBI double in the sixth and Austin Edens (2014, St. Michael HS, Baton Rouge) had an RBI double in the sixth and run-scoring single in the seventh. Lange was there the whole time.
"In the bullpen I didn't feel all that great, but that's the way the game works," he said. "Sometimes you're in the bullpen and you don't feel your best and you end up throwing a gem ... and this was good, it was fun. I felt good after I got in the groove."
This Marucci Elite 16u squad played together all summer but is missing some pieces because high school football has already started in Louisiana. There's a chance -- although Cryer couldn't say with any certainty -- that Perfect Game All-American and No. 3-ranked Justin Williams (2013, Terrebonne HS, Houma, La.) will be joining the team later in the week.
Other top prospects gracing the Marucci roster are Keith Weisenberg (2014, Osceola HS, Seminole, Fla.), ranked 45th, and Kevin Moesquit (Highland Christian HS, Deerfield Beach, Fla.), ranked 49th.
"This has been a great group of guys and they seem to be playing together a lot better than we were earlier in the summer, which is good," Cryer said.
Team Citius is based in New York City and head coach Melvin Perez worked with Omar Washington from the Dallas (Texas) Panthers organization to put this team together for the 16u PG World Series. The effort resulted in a roster with nine New York prospects, five from Texas and one each from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
"We put our best guys together from the New York tri-state area and from the Texas area to go out there and compete," Perez said. "We want to maximize the boys' exposure, especially here at these major Perfect Game events."
Perez is confident his mix of Northeasterners and Texans will be competitive here this week. He's just glad his boys have been given the opportunity to compete.
"We're very honored to be here and be recognized as one of the best teams in the country," he said. "When we got the call and were invited to come here, we put this team together in about three or four days and we're ready to go. These are the best teams in the country and we played to a tie with one of the best that is probably a favorite to win this tournament.
"The boys are ready to go and everybody's excited. We're just looking forward to the rest of the week; it should be very exciting."
Cryer is leading a team that most expect to still be playing on Saturday when the semifinals and championship game will be played. He also knows there are no free passes into Saturday.
"All these teams are really great, and this just kind of gives it the feel that every game is really important," Cryer said. "Every team you face is going to have a good arm and a good lineup, and it's nice to know the guys will kind of play up to the competition. That's the good thing about this tournament; you can't take a day off here."
This is Lange's seventh Perfect Game event, including an appearance at the PG Junior National Showcase in Minneapolis in mid-June. Although he hails from Missouri, he was fortunate enough to get spotted by Marucci Elite's Chad Raley and brought into the program.
The experience has been especially rewarding and the rewards should continue to come this week.
"I love Perfect Game and it's been awesome coming down here -- (PG) hosts great tournaments -- and being with Marucci has given me great opportunities," Lange said Tuesday. "There's nothing better than being able to compete against the top guys in the country.
"It's humbling to have you (name) spoken in the same sentence as some of the guys down here and being able to throw against them and compete with them. I'm looking forward to playing well."