SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As lightning crackled far in the distance Friday night at the States Play Invitational, the pitching rubber was its own conduit for electricity. The most impressive arm was that of Naulivou Lauaki Jr., a commit to the University of Oregon, who was on hand for his first premier showcase performance.
A day-long endeavor of baseball culminated in a seven-inning affair, won by the West squad, 3-2, at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
A handful of prep baseball's premier preternaturally talented youth received hands-on instruction from a diverse and experienced cast of coaches on the first day of team activities. Whether it was during infield defense, batting practice or long toss, players received tips and advice from a cadre of former big leaguers and those that possess a wealth of knowledge about the game that brought some of the top talents in the 2024 class to Arizona.
Lauaki, who stands 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, collected four strikeouts over three innings of work in relief for the West squad, including retiring the first six batters that he faced. The right-hander sat at 90-93 mph with his fastball and 82-84 with his breaking pitch, impressing the litany of scouts on hand.
“I had my offspeed going on them,” Lauaki said. “I caught them [off-guard].”
The sights and sounds around a sun-splashed morning session at the States Play Invitational bespoke those of many first days of camp, full of introductions before getting down to work. The action began early, with all participants taking part in drills on the backfields of Tempe Diablo Stadium, Spring Training home to the Los Angeles Angels.
In those early hours, bonds were already being formed. Lauaki began his outing throwing to Josh Springer from Corona (HS), Calif., a battery that was charged before the two so much as exchanged signs.
“I walked up to him and we became dogs right away,” Lauaki said of Springer, who is a fellow Oregon Duck commit in the class of 2024. “We’ve just been talking and hanging.
"It was a great experience to come out and participate in States Play, I loved it."
Other notable standouts:
Josh Springer, C (West): Springer delivered the night’s most dramatic hit, a flared single over a drawn-in infield in the bottom of the seventh that sent the West dugout hurdling onto the field for a walk-off celebration. The 6-foot-2 backstop also impressed defensively in the top of the first, blocking a pitch in the dirt and unleashing a rocket throw down to second to catch the runner too far from the bag.
Trey Gregory-Alford, RHP (West): Gregory-Alford’s afternoon saw him walloping home runs onto the berm behind the left-field fence. His evening saw him spinning a pair of zeros out of relief. An uncommitted righty in the class of 2024 out of Colorado Springs, Colo., Gregory-Alford utilized all of his 6-foot-5 frame to generate downhill action to keep the East offense off-balance.
Max Charles, SS/switch pitcher (West): You read that right. Charles, another Arizona participant, boasts the rare S/S on his bats and throws card. His first at-bat came in the bottom of the fifth, and he immediately made an impact by ripping an opposite-field double inside the third-base bag, tying the game at 2. The Liberty HS (Peoria, Ariz.) product showcased his defensive acumen in the top of the seventh with a slick glove flip to record a forceout.