CARY, N.C. -- While the 2017 National High School Invitational championship game won't be played until Saturday, Wednesday's opening-round matchup between Cullman and Dana Hills, with their respective aces on the mound, had the feel of a title bout.Ultimately, it was Dana Hills (Calif.), led by an outstanding performance from
CARY, N.C. -- While the 2017 National High School Invitational championship game won't be played until Saturday, Wednesday's opening-round matchup between Cullman and Dana Hills, with their respective aces on the mound, had the feel of a title bout.
Ultimately, it was Dana Hills (Calif.), led by an outstanding performance from right-hander Hans Crouse and a clutch go-ahead double in the fifth inning by Jeremy Ciolek, that prevailed, edging Cullman (Ala.), 4-3, at Coleman Stadium.
:: 2017 USA Baseball National High School Invitational ::
"My mindset going into today was to throw seven shutout innings and win us a close ballgame, because going into it, you expect it to be a dogfight or a pitchers' duel," Crouse said. "Luckily my offense came up really big for me."
Pitching in front of a sea of scouts and radar guns, Crouse showed exactly why many view him as one of the premier high school pitchers in the 2017 Draft class. The University of Southern California-bound righty hit 96 mph with his first pitch of the game and sat at 93-96, touching 97, for the duration of the outing. His sharp slider in the upper 70s was equally impressive, and he showed a feel for throwing it early in counts, as well as a knack for burying it in the dirt when vying for whiffs.
Crouse, MLBPipeline.com's No. 8 prep prospect, racked up nine strikeouts -- seven swinging -- over 5 1/3 innings in the victory, yielding three unearned runs on five hits and two walks. He threw 60 of his 99 pitches for strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 23 batters he faced.
All three runs permitted by Crouse scored on either a wild pitch or a passed ball, and he also committed two throwing errors on the mound.
"It was a little disappointing how they got their runs; we have our ace on the mound who can't throw the ball to second or first," Dana Hills head coach Tom Faris said about his right-hander. "But he figured it out, and all he really had to do was get it over the plate the whole day. So that was fun to watch."
Despite Crouse's blunders, he maintained his composure throughout the performance, showing a combination of poise and competitiveness that has endeared him to scouts.
"I kind of got a little antsy out there and tried to do too much with my pitches, because once I start striking out a lot of guys early in the game, I try to get even nastier, and that's when my slider started bouncing a lot and costing us passed balls and wild pitches," Crouse said. "I had a talk with myself in the dugout and said, 'Just throw it over the plate, because they haven't really made hard contact other than [Jacob] Heatherly's two line drives.'"
Opposing Crouse on the mound for Cullman was Heatherly -- an Alabama commit, who, despite not having his best stuff, held the Dolphins to four runs (three earned) on two hits in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander, MLBPipeline.com's No. 7 high school prospect, used his 88-91 mph fastball and mid-70s curveball to notch seven strikeouts, though he did issue four walks, hit three batters and had a wild pitch.
The two teams traded runs early in the game, with both clubs scoring twice in the third inning to knot the game at 3-3. That score held until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Ciolek, a Cal State Dominguez Hills commit, broke the tie with a full count, RBI double to left field.
Cullman threatened in its final at-bat, putting runners on first and second with no outs, but Dana Hills freshman reliever Dante Jackson bore down to strike out the next two hitters, and right fielder Thomas Van Hoomissen made a terrific diving catch to seal the victory for Dana Hills.
"It was a great team win, from top to bottom; from Hans' start to Dante [Jackson] closing to Van Hoomissen's play at the end of game and [Jeremy] Ciolek's double. It was just an all-around good team win," said Faris.
"This has been a very positive experience from the get-go -- we're being treated like big leaguers," he added. "I think the kids are pretty amped up to be here and play, and I'm hoping they can sustain that for the next couple days. Hopefully we can come back and continue to do what we did today.
"I like who we have pitching tomorrow -- Jack Sterner, a 6-foot-5 junior," he continued, "and if he can throw his offspeed pitches for strikes tomorrow, I like our chances. Offensively, we struggled against Jacob today and will need to get our bats going in the tournament, because we're not going to have Hans on the mound for all four games."
Canterbury 7, Hamilton 0
Clemson recruit Sam Keating paced Canterbury in a shutout of Hamilton, working four scoreless innings during which he allowed two hits and struck out four. The right-hander's fastball consistently sat in the low 90s. Florida State commit Cooper Swanson relieved Keating and tossed 1 2/3 hitless frames. The Crusaders had five players collect an RBI in the contest, including Cooper Weiss, who gave his team an early lead with a two-run double in the second inning.
South Hills 2, Brother Rice 0
Bolstered by an early lead, South Hills starter Karlos Morales tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out five, to lead the Huskies in a shutout of Brother Rice (Chicago), which mustered just three hits in the contest. Morales also helped his cause at the plate by going 1-for-3 with an RBI, and junior Brandon Dieter, a Stanford commit, notched two hits. Illinois recruit Ryan Knutt took the loss for Brother Rice but pitched well, fanning nine hitters in a complete-game effort.
Winder-Barrow 3, Huntington Beach 1
Winder-Barrow upset last year's NHSI champions in extra innings after it pushed across two runs in the top of the 10th inning. Senior left-hander Daniel Buice was outstanding for the Bulldogs, allowing one earned run on five hits in eight innings while throwing 71 of his 103 pitches for strikes. Southern California commit Nick Pratto, MLBPipeline.com's No. 3 prep prospect, was also impressive for Huntington Beach, tossing 9 1/3 innings with nine strikeouts while reaching 91 mph with his heater and showing a quality breaking ball.
Orange Lutheran 7, Merritt Island 3
Orange Lutheran's loaded roster, one that features 10 Division I commits, was on full display Wednesday as it defeated Merritt Island, 7-3, in the opening round of the 2017 National High School Invitational at Coleman Field.
Lutheran (Calif.) got on the board early, opening the bottom of the first with back-to-back hits en route to two runs. Caleb Ricketts pushed across the Lancers' first run with a sacrifice fly, and Gonzalo Martinez then extended the lead with a two-out single to right field.
The Lancers tacked on one run in the bottom of the third to tie the game before erupting for four runs on six hits while sending nine batters to the plate in the following frame.
"We didn't make it easy on ourselves," said Lutheran head coach Eric Borba. "We jumped out to that lead but gave that away real quick. But our guys didn't panic."
Elijah Buries, Ricketts and Zach Busalacchia each collected an RBI single, with shortstop Tristan Hanoian also adding a run-scoring double.
Ricketts, a 2018 prospect committed to play at San Diego, finished 1-for-3 with three RBIs to pace Orange Lutheran's offense, which collected 12 total hits on the afternoon. UCLA commit Garrett Mitchell, MLBPipeline.com's No. 20-ranked high school prospect, scored a pair of runs and stole a base as part of a 1-for-3 performance. Hanoian, a Texas Christian recruit, finished 3-for-4 out of the leadoff spot, while Busalacchia and Zachary Lew (Cal State Fullerton commit) collected two hits each as well.
"I thought we did a tremendous job in the batter's box today, finding ways to get on base and doing the little things," Borba reflected after the game. "Our offense definitely carried us, and we had some big at-bats."
Trinity Christian 2, Hough 1
Trinity right-hander AJ Labas, a North Florida commit, recorded the first complete game of the tournament, yielding one unearned run on six hits over seven dominant innings, while his offense rallied to score a run on an infield error in their final at-bat for a walk-off win. The 6-foot-3 Labas racked up 13 strikeouts without issuing a walk while throwing 72 of his 92 pitches for strikes. He operated at 89-92 mph with his fastball and showed outstanding feel for a 78-79 changeup, throwing it with confidence to hitters on both sides of the plate.
Archbishop McCarthy 3, Arlington 1
Florida recruit Adan Fernandez hit a solo home run and later added a double to lead Archbishop McCarthy at the plate, while right-handed starter Joe Perez, a Miami commit, notched six strikeouts in three innings while sitting 90-93 mph and hitting 94.
American Heritage 10, Rocky Mountain 0
Florida International commit Christian Santana tossed a four-hit shutout for Heritage, allowing four hits and one walk while fanning 11 batters. The right-hander operated at 88-91 mph and racked up plenty of whiffs with his dynamic breaking ball at 74-78 mph. At the plate, Miami commit Mark Vientos, MLBPipeline.com's No. 24-ranked prep prospect, had a big game out of the leadoff spot, going 4-for-5 with a double and two runs scored, while Florida recruit Cory Acton went 4-for-4 with a home run, a triple and three runs scored out of the three-hole.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.