Evo Shield Underclass Preview

GLENDALE, Ariz. – It was just a year ago that Dwyer High School (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) head baseball coach Frank Torre Jr. brought his first star-studded SACSN National Team to a Perfect Game national championship tournament: the 2013 PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass).

The SACSN National Team – SACSN is an acronym for Student Athlete Community Service Network – was assembled by Torre Jr. in alliance with the Joe Torre Foundation, and as he told PG last year, “The whole mission of it is to get student-athletes out in their community and out doing good things off the baseball field as far as performing community service in many different facets.”

Its other unstated mission was to win ballgames, which it did in unfettered fashion at last year’s PG/EvoShield Underclass National, going 7-0 and beating California-based So Cal NTT in the championship game. It’s now time for Round 2.

An all new, but perhaps not any less talented, SACSN National Team will be in the recently flooded but rapidly drying out Valley of the Sun at the 6th annual Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) along with 79 other highly regarded underclass teams.

The PG national championship tournament begins Friday and concludes Monday with games being played at the Camelback Ranch Complex – the spring training Cactus League home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox – and the Goodyear (Ariz.) Ballpark Sports Complex – Cactus League home of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds.

The 80 teams vying for the championship come from 12 states with the majority from Arizona and California. There are teams coming from as far away as Anchorage, Alaska (Gamers Baseball Alaska), Perry Hall, Md. (CrabFest All-Americans) and, of course, National, Fla., the home base of the SACSN National Team (the team’s players come from all over the country).

The SACSN National roster includes six class of 2016 prospects ranked in the top 128 nationally: Las Vegas, Nev., middle-infielder Nicholas Quintana (No. 14, Southern Cal commit); Lebanon, Ohio, catcher/right-hander Tyler Duvall (N. 54, Vanderbilt); New York City shortstop Daniel Bakst (No. 91, uncommitted), and Chandler, Ariz., catcher/right-hander Logan Boyer (No. 97, uncommitted); Rockford, Mich., right-hander/outfielder Jack Weisenburger (No. 104, Michigan), and Lakewood, Colo., outfielder Wyatt Featherston (No. 128, uncommitted).

It’s a formidable roster, to be sure, but SACSN National isn’t the only club oozing with promise and potential.

Mike Garciaparra, who helped direct Los Angeles-based Garciaparra Baseball Group (GBG) Yak Baseball West to the 2012 PG/EvoShield Underclass national championship and GBG Marucci to the 2013 PG/EvoShield Upperclass national title, is back with four teams in the field, including powerhouse GBG Marucci Navy.

Navy features nine 2016 prospects that have committed to NCAA Division I schools, including a couple of highly ranked Pacific-12 Conference recruits: right-handed pitcher Kevin Gowdy from Santa Barbara, Calif., is ranked No. 22 nationally and has committed to UCLA, and third baseman/shortstop/right-hander Spencer Steer out of Long Beach, Calif., is No. 39 and committed to Oregon.

The San Diego Show, one of the West Coast’s elite programs under the direction of Brian Cain, arrives in the desert with 2016 outfielder Mickey Moniak from Encinitas, Calif., a UCLA recruit who at No. 13 is the highest ranked prospect at the event.

The Show also have 2016 catcher Ryan Orr from Encinitas (No. 288, San Diego State) and 2017 shortstop/third baseman Ben Ramirez from Chula Vista, Calif. (top-600, Southern Cal) on their roster.

There are three teams in the field with histories of winning Perfect Game tournament championships at lower age-levels that should offer some intrigue and scouts will keep an eye on over the weekend.

The Team California Warriors out of Carlsbad won the 15u PG World Series in August and will bring at least six players from that team here this weekend. Among them are 2017 left-hander/utility Damien Rinehart from Watsonville, Calif., the Most Valuable Player at the 15u PGWS; 2016 right-hander/third baseman Jack Melton from San Diego, the MV Pitcher at the 15u PGWS, and 2016 right-hander Jonathan Worley, a U. of San Diego recruit from San Diego.

The youngsters that populate the roster for Phenom 14u out of Riverside, Calif., have already enjoyed a phenomenal 2014 season playing at the 14u level and will now test their mettle against players that are at least a year or two older than them. The 20-man Phenom 14u roster includes four players each from the 2016 and 2017 classes, 11 from the class of 2018 and one 2019.

And these kids are winners. It is basically the same group that won the 2014 14u Perfect Game MLK Championship in January and the PG WWBA 14u West Memorial Day Classic in late May.

2018 right-hander Sean Osceola from Okeechobee, Fla., was the MV Pitcher at the 14u PG MLK; 2018 outfielder Preston Hartsell from Newport Coast, Calif., and 2017 right-hander/shortstop Diego Alarcon from Lennox, Calif., were the MV Player and MV Pitcher, respectively, at the PG WWBA 14u West Memorial Day.

Another team on the “young” side of the underclass coin is the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based AZ T-Rex Baseball Club, an outfit under the direction of Rex Gonzalez that features 13 class-of-2017 prospects on its 19-man roster.

Several of the players were members of the T-Rex Baseball Club that won the 2013 14u Perfect Game MLK Championship, including 2017 outfielder Tyler Stokes from Chandler, Ariz., who was the MV Player at that tournament.

Two of the roster spots are filled by 2017 prospects that have fathers that enjoyed long careers in Major League Baseball. Shortstop Jacob Gonzalez from Scottsdale is the son of Luis Gonzalez, an outfielder who played 19 years in the big leagues; right-hander/second baseman Casey Candiotti from Scottsdale is the son of right-hander Tom Candiotti, who enjoyed a 16-year big-league career.

The Maryland-based CrabFest All-Americans are from the same organization that previously fielded teams at the PG/EvoShield National Championships under the Team Maryland banner, and advanced to the final-four at the 2012 Upperclass tournament. Phenom Texas out of Dallas previously played under the ABD Texas name and, like CrabFest, has always represented itself well.

Five teams flying the So Cal banner – Birds, Elite, Marlins, NTT and Waves – will be in attendance and are always a threat, as are the three teams from Colton (Calif.) Nighthawks organization – Nighthawks, Nighthawks 16u and Nighthawks White.

Although alumni of this event have been eligible for only the last four MLB amateur drafts, the event has produced four first round or first round compensation picks: Travis Harrison (2009 PG/EvoShield Under), first round comp, Twins, 2011; Luis Ortiz (2010), first round, Rangers, 2014; Mitch Nay (2010), first round comp, Blue Jays, 2012; Brady Aiken (2011, 2012), first round, Astros, 2014. A total of 66 alumni have been selected in the last four drafts.