GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Before the Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) got under way last Friday, private conversations shared the belief there was a prohibitive favorite to capture the crown. Sure enough, that presumed favorite, the SACSN National Team, met everyone’s expectations and won the PG national championship Monday afternoon at Goodyear Ballpark.
For the most part, many of the top juniors, sophomores and freshmen have left the Valley of the Sun, only to be replaced by many of the top seniors (with a strong complement of juniors) for this weekend’s 3rd annual Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass) tournament. The event will run Friday through Monday at the Cactus League spring training facilities at the Goodyear Ballpark Complex (Reds and Indians) and the Peoria Sports Complex (Mariners and Padres).
Unlike last weekend, there is no “prohibitive”, “presumed” or “clear-cut” favorite to win the upper class event. In fact, a precursory glance at the 76-team field identified at least 15 teams (a low number, to be sure) that have rosters stocked with enough NCAA Division I and possibly professional draft talent to make a run at securing PG national championship rings this weekend.
Most of those favorites, not surprisingly, come from California. The Golden State is represented by 44 squads in the 76-team field, which also includes teams from 12 states and Alberta, Canada. Powerhouse organization ABD has four teams in the field, and all should be competitive: the ABD Bulldogs (Norco, Calif.), ABD Hawaii (Honolulu), ABD Nevada (Henderson, Nev.) and ABD Nevada Navy (Henderson).
There are two other Hawaiian teams in the field, as well, both out of Hilo: Big Island Baseball and Big Island Baseball Blue.
The Trombly Nighthawks out of Brea, Calif., won last year’s PG/EvoShield Upper event and are back this weekend with a roster that can hardly be rivaled. It includes eight NCAA Division I commits, including Cal State Fullerton recruit and 2013 Perfect Game All-American D.J. Peters, an outfielder from Glendora, Calif. Peters in ranked the No. 39 overall prospect in the 2014 graduating class.
He is not the only highly ranked 2014 prospect on a roster this weekend or, for that matter, the only 2013 PG All-American. Catcher Alex Jackson from Escondido, Calif., ranked No. 3 nationally, and shortstop Jacob Gatewood from Clovis, Calif., ranked No. 6, both played in the PG All-American Classic presented by Rawlings in August and both occupy spots on the San Diego Show roster. The Show has four other D-I commits on their roster.
California Baseball Academy (CBA) has four teams in the field – Marucci, Rookies, Victory and Warriors – and CBA Marucci is absolutely stacked with nine D-I commits, all from the class of 2015. Two of the most intriguing prospects on that roster are No. 8-ranked right-hander Kyle Molnar from Aliso Viejo, Calif., a UCLA commit, and No. 15 catcher Chris Betts from Long Beach, Calif., a Tennessee commit.
Outfielder/left-hander Alex Verdugo from Tucson, ranked No. 20 nationally in the 2014 class, will be playing for the Kyle, Texas-based Prospects National Team and has committed to Arizona State.
Five prospects that played for the championship SACSN National Team at last weekend’s PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) are also listed as participants in the Upperclass event this weekend, although it wasn’t immediately clear who they would be playing for.
Most prominent is Marvin, N.C., left-hander Max Wotell, named the PG/EvoShield Underclass Most Valuable Pitcher for the work he did with SACSN last weekend. The other listed participants from the SACSN team are right-hander Ryan Cole McKay (2015, Spring Branch, Texas), ranked No. 28 and a Louisiana State commit; right-hander Cole Sands (2015, Tallahassee, Fla.), No. 34, Florida State; Lucas Herbert (2015, San Clemente, Calif.), No. 41, UCLA; and righty Jiovanni Orozco (2015, Tucson), uncommitted.
Other highly ranked and uncommitted 2015 prospects expected here this weekend are outfielder Tyler Williams from Peoria, Ariz. -- ranked No. 65 nationally -- who will be playing for the Watsonville Aggies, and shortstop Parker Kelly from Portland, Ore., ranked No. 48.
Los Angeles-based Garciaparra Baseball Group (GBG) has two teams in the field with GBG Navy boasting four prospects that have already committed to D-I schools. No. 16-ranked Brendon Davis from Lakewood, Calif., (uncommitted) is also on the Navy roster. The West Coast Clippers (Temecula, Calif.) and the San Gabriel Valley Arsenal (West Covina, Calif.) have six and four D-I commits, respectively.
A team PG staffers always enjoy keeping track of at this event is the Iowa Select Black, based in PG’s hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This year’s Iowa Select Black unit looks particularly formidable with eight D-I commits, including right-hander Mitch Keller (2014, Cedar Rapids, Iowa), North Carolina; shortstop Ryan Lillard (2015, Urbandale, Iowa), Kansas State; and right-hander Brock Neuhaus (2014, Bettendorf, Iowa), also Kansas State.