GOODYEAR, Ariz. – It only makes sense that as the number of teams participating in the Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) continues to rise, the number of highly ranked national prospects appearing at the event rises proportionally. That growth has certainly continued this year.
The 5th annual PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) swings into action on Friday with a full slate of 48 games on the opening day schedule. Games will be played at the Goodyear Ballpark Complex (spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians) and Camelback Ranch (Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox) in nearby Glendale. Monday’s semifinal games and championship game will be played at Goodyear.
The majority of the teams in the field are from California and Arizona but 12 states and Alberta, Canada are represented. Garciaparra Baseball Group (GBG), based in Los Angeles, won the 2012 PG/EvoShield Underclass and the organization returns this year with three teams and a new partnership: GBG Marucci Blue, GBG Marucci Navy and GBG Marucci White.
GBG founder and head coach Mike Garciaparra said the Navy team roster is exclusively with prospects from the class of 2015, while the Blue and White are nice blends of 2015s, 2016s and 2017s. One of his top players on GBG Marucci Navy is 2015 third baseman Brendon Davis from Lakewood, Calif., the nation’s No. 16-ranked prospect in his class.
“We’re looking for another competitive weekend of baseball,” Garciaparra said early this week. “Our program has grown really, really fast just in the last year and we’re bringing in three teams. We think we have some good teams and we’re going to just go out there and try to do what we can do at every tournament and take home another win.”
The PG/EvoShield Underclass has grown to 64 teams, up from 48 last year. There were 17 entrants at the inaugural event in 2009 with 35 in 2010 and 32 in 2011. The competition and talent levels increase with each additional entrant.
“It was really fun last year winning that (PG) championship ring; with more teams coming in this year everybody is going to try to vie for that championship,” Garciaparra said. “We’re glad there are more teams, we’re glad (the tournament is) going well and we’re glad to be a part of it.”
A team certain to garner a lot of attention over the tournament’s four-day run is the one based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The SACSN National Team will represent the Student Athlete Community Service Network (SACSN, pronounced “sax-sen”) in alliance with The Joe Torre Foundation. According to a news release, “SACSN is a non-profit student organization that is pioneering achievements in ‘out of class’ community service.”
Players from 10 states comprise the roster, which includes eight prospects ranked in the top-56 in the class of 2015 national rankings – most notably No. 1 Dazmon Cameron, an outfielder from McDonough, Ga., and a regular for the East Cobb Astros.
Joining Cameron on the SACSN roster are: shortstop Nicholas Shumpert from Highlands Ranch, Colo., (ranked No. 6); right-hander/outfielder Kyle Dean from Poway, Colo. (No. 9); right-hander/third baseman Ryan Cole McKay from Spring Branch, Texas, (No. 28); right-hander/third baseman Cole Sands from Tallahassee, Fla. (No. 34); catcher Lucas Herbert from San Clemente, Calif. (No. 41); left-hander Max Wodell from Waxhaw, N.C. (No. 52); and right-hander Jiovanni Orozco from Tucson, Ariz., (No. 56).
Cameron and McKay are uncommitted; Shumpert has committed to Kentucky, Dean to San Diego and Herbert to UCLA. Sands, right-hander Jarrett Montgomery from Indianapolis and righty Logan Crouse from Valrico, Fla., have all committed to Florida State; middle-infielder Nick Madrigal from Elk Grove, Calif., is an Oregon State commit.
Other 2015 top-100 prospects on PG/EvoShield Underclass rosters include No. 48 Parker Kelly, a shortstop from Portland, Ore., playing with the West Coast Mariners; No. 76 Grant Sloan, a right-hander from Zionsville, Ind., with Gravel Baseball (Illinois); and No. 89 Dillon Paulson, a first baseman from San Mateo, Calif., with the San Diego Show.
In addition to the SACSN National Team players mentioned above, at least 10 other 2015 prospects expected at the event have made commitments to NCAA D-I colleges.
From a team standpoint, there is no shortage of capable clubs that will challenge SACSN National and the three GBG teams for the title, with the West Coast Mariners, Gravel Baseball (Illinois) and the San Diego Show certainly in the conversation.
California Baseball Academy (CBA) has five teams entered, including CBA Marucci 2016 with UCLA commit Blake Rutherford (2016, Simi Valley, Calif.) and Southern Cal commit Josh Stephen (2016, Chino Hills, Calif.). Rutherford and Stephen are ranked ninth and 28th, respectively, in the class of 2016.
The Southern California Bombers organization has three teams in the event – 2015 Black, 2015 Red and 2016 Black – that will be ultra competitive; the Surprise-based Arizona Pilots 2015 and Arizona Pilots 2016 would love to win in their own backyard.
The PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) is already building a solid historical backdrop. Forty PG/EvoShield Underclass alumni from the 2009, 2010 and 2011 events have been selected in the MLB amateur draft, including first-rounders Travis Harrison from the ABD Bulldogs ’11 in 2009 and Mitch Nay from the AZ Diamondbacks 17u in 2010. Another 339 alumni committed to colleges.