CARY, N.C. -- Heading into the final game at the Tournament of Stars on Saturday, there had been just one home run over the first seven contests combined. The Brave hit three long balls on their own in a 14-8 slugfest victory over the United to earn a gold medal.
:: 2018 USA Baseball Tournament of Stars ::
Rece Hinds (Niceville Senior HS, Fla.) came into this year's TOS with the reputation of having the most raw power of any high school hitter in the class. He made sure everyone knew it's not just a batting practice or future power type of deal, hitting two out of a park that doesn't see many long balls.
"To play against the best of the best, it makes you a better player," said Hinds, who also homered on the last day of last year's event and knows just how much you have to drive a ball to clear a fence. "You can't just show power in BP. You need to be able to do it in games, too."
Hinds, an LSU commit, first went deep in the top of the fourth with his Brave team down 3-0. The Brave had loaded the bases and Hinds hit a deep fly to left-center that barely cleared the fence and outstretched arm of outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong (Harvard-Westlake HS, Calif.).
"I didn't think it was gone," Hinds admitted. "I thought I had popped it up."
His second homer came in the sixth with the Brave behind 6-4, but it was more of the no-doubt variety. Facing Nolan Crisp (Loucst Grove HS Ga.), the third baseman absolutely drilled a pitch deep to left-center, the type of blast the outfield barely had to turn around for. It tied the score and started a five-run inning that gave the Brave a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
"I knew it was gone, but I know I have to stay humble," Hinds said. "I have to put my head down and run."
Hinds, who finished the day 3-for-5 with seven RBIs, saved his emotional display for a teammate. Austin Hendrick (West Allegheny HS, Pa.), who had singled ahead of Hinds' two-run blast, stepped to the plate in the seventh. With the Brave up 9-6 and Hinds on deck, Hendrick hit a ball 424 feet out to right-center. It registered an exit velocity of 107 mph and elicited a response from Hinds.
"I did a bat flip from the on-deck circle when Austin homered," Hinds said with a smile. "I told him that when he came around."
Hinds will bring his power with him to Washington, D.C., as a participant in the High School Home Run Derby set to take place before the Futures Game at the start of All-Star festivities. Hinds was supposed to take his hacks at last year's contest in Miami, but a minor injury kept him from competing.
"I'm a little nervous about that, to be honest," Hinds said. "But I'm excited. I couldn't do it last year because I had sprained my ankle. I just will look for pitches out over the plate and try to barrel them up, kind of like my approach in games."
Witt Jr., Doughty provide gems in bronze-medal game
Those watching the third-place game Saturday morning were treated to extra baseball and a tie, with the Free and United playing 10 innings and ending knotted at 4, as the teams were running out of pitching.
Pride had jumped out to a 4-0 lead with two runs in the second and two more in the third, with Hylan Hall (TXNL Academy, Fla.) driving in the first run of the game with a double. Coleman Brigman (Valley Christian School, Calif.), Tyler Callihan (Providence HS, Fla.) and Jerrion Ealy (Jackson Prep, Miss.) all drove in a run to give the Pride a four-run advantage.
It didn't last long as Free took advantage of a pair of Pride miscues in the field to score four times in the top of the fourth. The big blow came off the bat of Nate Rombach (Mansfield Legacy HS, Texas), who doubled in a pair of runs to tie things up.
And that would be it, as pitching and defense ruled for the remainder of the game. Cooper Benson (San Luis Obispo HS, Calif.), after allowing those four unearned runs in the fourth, put up two more zeroes. Underclassman Jared Kelley (Refugio HS, Texas) tossed just one perfect inning, but created a little buzz by registering a 96-mph reading on the scoreboard, the hardest fastball thrown in the tournament. Hall came in to pitch a pair of scoreless frames in back of Kelley for Pride before Jacob Saum (St. Bonaventure HS, Calif.) finished up.
For the Free, starter Matthew Allen (Seminole HS, Fla.) did give up four runs over three innings, though he reached 94 mph with his heater. Jason Diaz (Kellenberg Memorial HS, N.Y.) relieved him and gave the Free three scoreless frames. Wesley Scott (Woodcrest Christian HS, Calif.) and Quinn Priester (Cary Grove HS, Ill.) followed with an inning each before local product Liam Norris (Green Hope HS, N.C.) came in firing 94- to 95-mph fastballs and allowing just one hit while striking out four over two shutout innings.
Norris got help from his defense in the ninth. Abrams sent a fly ball foul down the left-field line that seemed destined to go out of play. But third baseman Cade Doughty (Denham Springs HS, La.) never gave up on it and made a stunning Derek Jeter-like catch, tumbling over the tarp for the second out of the inning with Paris on first. Paris tagged and went to second and would have scored the winning run on Callihan's grounder in the hole that looked headed to left field. But Bobby Witt Jr. (Colleyville Heritage HS, Texas) somehow managed to glove it. And while Witt's throw to first was late, it kept Paris on third and allowed Norris to get out of the inning one batter later.