'Come out swinging': This Draft prospect is crushing at NHSI

March 31st, 2023

CARY, N.C. -- When Trent Caraway walks to the plate, he lets his bat skim the ground, drawing an arc behind the umpire on his way to the right-handed batter’s box. As he steps into the box he kicks the air like he’s attempting a field goal or, as the case may be, a free kick.

“I just started doing that and I’ve stuck with that routine, and it’s worked for me,” said Caraway, the JSerra Catholic HS (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) star. “I saw someone drag their bat, I think at Vanderbilt and I thought, ‘That’s kind of sick, I’m going to do that.’ The kick, that’s just me. ‘Pelé’ is my favorite movie, a little soccer.”

Caraway, No. 59 on the Top 100 Draft Prospects list, has been doing a lot more damage in the box than just his shadow kicks. The Oregon State recruit came into the NHSI thought to be one of the best hitters on hand this week, and he’s done nothing to hurt that evaluation. The third baseman went 1-for-4 with a run scored on Friday as JSerra beat Santa Margarita Catholic HS (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.), 4-1, to advance to the title game on Saturday.

Even his outs have been loud. He had gotten off to a good start back home in California and brought his ability to find the barrel with him. He’s hit five balls 97.7 mph or harder. His opposite-field single on Friday was 98 mph off the bat and he had a 102-mph lineout to shortstop later in the game.

“I’m not really a big thinker," said Caraway, who has gone 5-for-12 (.417) with a triple in three games here. “I just kind of see the ball up and hit it. I’m going to keep doing that, stick with that.”

That, along with a complete-game victory by junior Matthew Champion (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K for the LSU recruit), helped get JSerra to the title game, where the school will face another California powerhouse in Huntington Beach, which edged Bishop Gorman, 3-2, in the other semifinal on Friday. Saturday’s championship (4:30 p.m. ET, streaming on usabaseball.tv) will mark the seventh time two California teams have met for the title in the 10 years USA Baseball has run this event.

“We’re not even representing JSerra,” Caraway said. “We’re representing all of California, the Trinity League. It’s awesome. We’re playing our game. We’re showing it out. Recently in this season, we weren’t doing our thing. Now it’s kind of showing and everyone is noticing it. It’s super fun.”

Huntington Beach is playing in its second final, having won the NHSI in 2016 after reaching its fourth semifinal. They’ve been led offensively by another big bat in the 2023 Draft class in Ralphy Velazquez. While he went 0-for-2 on Friday, he did drive in a run with a first-inning sacrifice fly, giving him six RBIs in three games, and he’s gone a combined 6-for-10.

“They’re a great team; all respect to them,” Velazquez said. “Every time we play them, it’s all respectful. Tomorrow’s going to be a great game, it’s going to be a dogfight. We’re going to have to come out swinging."

“It would definitely be a movie,” Caraway said. “We haven’t played them this year. It’ll be a matchup we haven’t seen before. I think it’ll be a powerhouse matchup.”

Regardless of what happens on Saturday, Caraway now can hold one thing over JSerra’s most famous baseball alum, the Twins’ Royce Lewis. The former No. 1 overall pick was a sophomore back in 2015 when his school lost in the first round, but went 3-1 overall. So Caraway can hold a championship game appearance over Lewis.

“He’s a baller,” Caraway said, respectfully. “But I didn’t know that.”