* The Inside Pitch Academy from Regina split four games at the Perfect Game/EvoShield Upperclass National Championship in Peoria, Az. The prairie lads scored a 5-1 win over PB Outlaws (Torrance, Calif.), an 8-3 win over the Cairas Blackdogs 18u (Chino Hills, Calif.), lost 8-0 loss to San Diego-based So Cal SKLZ/TROSKY and 12-4 loss to Slammers Black-Holzemer.
Canadians find fun in the sun
PEORIA, Ariz. – When Inside Pitch Academy director of player development Morgan Reiter slipped on his “head coach” cap and made the Team IP Prospects part of the 84-team field at the ongoing Perfect Game/EvoShield Upperclass National Championship, there was most likely at least one question being asked.
Could an unproven and basically untested team of high school juniors and seniors from Saskatchewan, Canada, show up in the west Phoenix suburbs and be competitive in a PG national championship tournament event? After two games and two victories on the first day of the four-day event, Reiter had every reason to believe the Prospects could more than hold their own.
“I think it shows so far, you know,” he said Saturday morning before his team played San Diego-based So Cal SKLZ/TROSKY in its third pool-play game at the Peoria Sports Complex.
“They just need to get in here and get into the mix and realize that they can compete with anyone else where ever they are,” Reiter said. “Where we’re from they don’t get this kind of competition on a regular basis.”
Inside Pitch Academy is located in Regina, Saskatchewan, where the winters are long and cold and the outdoor baseball season is short and sweet. But Reiter has established a well-respected program in the beautiful city of Regina, which sits about 110 miles north of the U.S. border in Montana.
According to its website, “The Inside Pitch Academy’s mission is to improve players of all ages and all abilities. The enjoyment of the game is of paramount importance …” And if that means coming to the desert for a little R&R – in this case Runs & Rallies – well, let the good time roll.
“This is my first opportunity to play with Inside Pitch and the Prospects, and I’m excited,” said Saskatoon, Sask., 2016 left-hander Danny Berg, who got the start for the Prospects Saturday morning. “It’s a great opportunity to come here to Arizona and play with a great group of guys. …This is a better experience with (better) players to pitch against so … it should make me a better player in the long run.”
The 15-man roster Reiter brought here this weekend includes 12 prospects from Saskatchewan, two from British Columbia and one from Manitoba, with nine 2015s and six 2016s. Most of them will play a summer season with their respective summer teams and most train with Reiter at the Inside Pitch Academy three to five times a week from October to April.
Reiter then tries to take the team to at least three events, this year doing the 16u PG MLK Championship, a week-long stay in Vero Beach, Fla., in March playing college-level competition and now the PG/EvoShield Upper.
“We’re big on skill development,” Reiter said. “I believe 100 percent in skill development over just playing games for the sake of playing games. When we do travel to go to events, it’s my goal to only go to the premier events like Perfect Game.
“In the meantime I think it’s more important to get the skill development in because if they don’t have the skills to compete at the next level it doesn’t matter how games they play, they’re not going to be able to go play college ball, and that’s the goal.”
The Team IP Prospects, with no prospects listed in Perfect Game’s national rankings and none with a college commitment to date, opened pool-play Friday with a 5-1 win over the PB Outlaws (Torrance, Calif.) and an 8-3 victory over the Cairas Blackdogs 18u (Chino Hills, Calif.).
2015 left-hander Chase Nistor from Regina, scattered eight hits over seven innings, allowed only one run and struck out five and walked two in the win over the Outlaws. Zach Diewert (2015, Chemainus, B.C.) smacked a three-run triple and Luke Lubiniecki delivered three singles to pace a 10-hit attack.
Diewert doubled and drove in another run, and Lubiniecki, Steven Campbell (2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba) and Geordie McDougall (2015, Lumsden, Sask.) each drove in two runs in the win over the Blackdogs 18u. 2015 right-hander Jordan Ehman (Saskatoon, Sask.) and 2016 lefty Tristan Boire (Regina, Sask.) combined on a six-hitter, allowing three runs while striking out eight and walking three.
The wins were great; the exposure even more important.
“Every year we place about eight to 10 kids into colleges here in the States and we’re just trying to look for opportunities to get our kids exposed,” Reiter said. “We came to the Perfect Game MLK 16u (Championship) last year – that was our first Perfect Game experience – and we really enjoyed it.
“It gave the kids a chance to challenge themselves and see where they stack-up next to the competition they’re facing trying to get into colleges. Primarily, we’re just trying to take our program to the next level.”
A week-long trip like this serves to bring the kids closer together and this group in particular has really bonded, according to Reiter. Everyone has fit in well together and is having a lot of fun playing together.
Reiter grew up in British Columbia where a lot of high-level baseball is played and he and his contemporaries believed they could play with anybody, including the kids from the States. He described their style of play as “scrappy” and it’s a mindset he’s trying to bring to the boys from Saskatchewan.
“These are tough kids, kind of farm boys, if you know what I mean – big strong kids,” he said. “I just want to try to get them to believe that they can play with anybody and just scrap; play every inning, play every out.”
Reiter was a right-handed pitcher at Texas State University in San Marcos who played for a time with the Canadian National Team along with a couple of seasons of Independent ball in Regina and Bend, Wis., in the late 1990s. He gets a lot of satisfaction working with the high school kids.
“It’s awesome, especially with the work we put in when it’s minus-30, minus-40 degrees in the winter in Regina,” he said. “You put in that work indoors and then you can come out here, and to see them realize some of their potential is pretty fulfilling.”
The Team IP Prospects’ playoff hopes took a big hit when they were unceremoniously dumped by So Cal SKLZ/TROSKY in an 8-0 decision shorted to five innings by the tournament run-rule. The bats that had been so productive in the first two games lost their pop, producing only three singles (Campbell had two of them).
SKLZ/TROSKY roughed up Berg and two other Prospects’ pitchers for eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits, including a pair of doubles and a triple. While the outcome wasn’t anything close to what Berg envisioned, judging by his pre-game demeanor it would be difficult to believe that outcome completely ruined the trip for the left-hander from Saskatoon.
“Coming down here, you get to play against guys who have been able to play all year-round,” Berg said before throwing a pitch.“We only get to play a couple of months out of our whole year so it’s great that we get to come down here and build our experience up.
“It’s 15 (degrees Celsius) back home and its 35 here, so it’s quite a change,” he concluded, “but this is the great part about it. You get to come down here and play baseball and you can’t ask for much more than that.”
Handley drives in four in win
Maverick Handley (2016, Mullen, CO) went 3 for 3 with four RBI’s for Slammers Black-Holzemer in their 12- 4 win over Team IP Prospects. Tommy Gillman (2016, Columbine, CO) pitched in with two hits including a double and an RBI. A.J. Fell (2016, Regis Jesuit, CO) singled in two runs. Aaron Dammel (2016, Highlands Ranch, CO) helped out with two singles. Ryan Vottiero (2016, Regis Jesuit, CO) drove in two runs with a single. Brice Johnson (2016, Pine Creek, CO) threw three innings. He struck out five while allowing just a hit. Bo Weiss (2016, Regis Jesuit, CO) came in next and pitched the fourth and fifth. He fanned one and allowed four hits. His fastball was between 86-88 mph and touched 89.
Cole Warken (2015, Martin Collegiate, SK) led the Prospects with two singles and an RBI. Ben Komonosky (2015, Vauxhall Academy of Baseball, SK) drove in two runs with a triple.
So Cal SKLZ grab shutout Victory
The So Cal SKLZ/TROSKY grabbed the easy shutout victory, defeating the Team IP Prospects, 8-0.
Matt Whitney (2015, Adolfo Camarillo HS, CA) a San Diego commit, provided some spark for the offense, by contributing with a triple, two runs scored and two RBIs. Octavio Arroyo (2015, San Ysidro HS, CA) went a perfect 2-2 at the plate, with two singles, two runs scored and two RBIs. J.T. Navarro (2015, Fountain Valley HS, CA) and Andres Alvarez () each contributed with a double a piece. Navarro finished 1-2 with a run scored, and Alvarez also had an RBI.
On the mound, Casey Legimma (2016, Basha HS, CA) pitched four complete innings, giving up just two hits and struck out four. He flashed a good fastball that averaged 85-89/89 mph and mixed in a good curveball and a changeup for his off-speed pitches.
Team IP Prospects cruised to the easy W
Team IP Prospects cruised to the easy win, defeating the Cairas Blackdogs 18U, 8-3.
Steven Campbell (2015, Winston Knoll Colegiate, MB) led the way, going 1-2 with a double, one run scored and two RBIs, and Zach Diewert (2015, Chemainus Secondary, BC) also went 1-2 with a double of his own, and one run and one RBI in the contest. Leadoff hitter Luke Lubiniecki (2015, Winston Knoll Colgeiate, SK) went 1-4 with a single, and two RBIs.
On the mound, Jordan Ehman (2015, Winston Knoll Colegiate, SK) pitched four complete innings of work, giving up two earned runs on four hits, and struck out three. He had a fastball that topped out at 79 mph, and mixed in a handful of curveballs and a changeup for his off-speed pitches.
For the Blackdogs, Logan Rukes (2015, Ruben S. Ayala HS, CA) provided a triple, and Timothy Turpen (2015, Ruben S. Ayala HS, CA) went 1-3 with a double, and one RBI in the game.
Team IP Scores Four to Break Away
Team IP Prospects defeated the PB Outlaws 5-1 in seven innings.
Zach Diewert (2015, Chemanius, BC) led his team with a three RBI triple in the fifth inning to blow the game open. Luke Lubiniecki (2015, Regina, SK) tallied the most hits with three singles and scoring once. Cole Warken (2015, Regina, SK) helped with two singles along with a RBI and scoring once. Geordie McDougall (2015, Lumsden, SK) contributed a RBI single as well.
Chase Nistor (2015, Regina, SK) took over the pitching duties with seven innings. He allowed one earned run off eight hits. He walked two batters and struck out five on his 83 mph fastball.
Cheech Pacheco (2015, San Pedro, CA) led the Outlaws with a trio of singles. Daniel Rocha (2015, Carson, CA) and Zach Lehman (2015, Buckeye, AZ) tried to helped by each knocking a pair of singles. Justin Yanez (2015, Banning, CA) tallied the only RBI for his team.