Prep Baseball Report

Field Set For 2019 NHSI

Nathan Rode and PBR Staff

USA Baseball announced the field of 16 for the 2019 National High School Invitational Tuesday afternoon. The event is set to take place April 3-6 at the National Training Complex in Cary, NC. This is the eighth annual event and has 10 different states represented, including the firsts for Missouri and New Jersey.

The 16 teams include Blessed Trinity HS, GA, Christian Brothers College HS, MO, Corona Del Sol HS, AZ, Delbarton HS, NJ, Desert Oasis HS, NV, Hagerty HS, FL, Harvard-Westlake HS, CA, Hendersonville HS, TN, Huntington Beach HS, CA, IMG Academy, FL, La Mirada HS, CA, Marist HS, IL, Monsignor Pace HS, FL, Northwest Guilford HS, NC, Orange Lutheran HS, CA, and South Forsyth HS, GA.

Returning to defend its back-to-back titles is Orange Lutheran. The Lancers participated in the inaugural NHSI in 2012, returned in 2014, and won it all in 2017-2018. Also returning to the NHSI are Harvard-Westlake, runners-up in 2012-2013, and Huntington Beach. The Oilers were champions in 2016, a year after a semifinal finish. They returned in 2017, but were upset in the first round.

The 2019 championship game will be played under the lights for the first time ever, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 6.

The NHSI is also heavily scouted with a high concentration of draft talent every year. This year’s field includes 28 players in Prep Baseball Report’s 2019 Overall Rankings, 15 of which are in the High School Draft 100: RHP Brennan Malone (No. 2; IMG Academy, FL), SS C.J. Abrams (No. 5; Blessed Trinity Catholic HS, GA), OF Riley Greene (No. 7; Hagerty HS, FL), RHP Jack Leiter (No. 9; Delbarton HS, NJ), RHP Landon Sims (No. 13; South Forsyth HS, GA), 3B Rece Hinds (No. 20; IMG Academy, FL), SS Anthony Volpe (No. 30; Delbarton HS, NJ), LHP Hayden Mullins (No. 36; Hendersonville HS, TN), RHP Kendall Williams (No. 37; IMG Academy, FL), LHP/1B Josh Hahn (No. 50; Huntington Beach HS, CA), RHP Sam Hliboki (No. 53; Harvard-Westlake HS, CA), OF Garrett Frechette (No. 58; Orange Lutheran HS, CA), 3B Josh Rivera (No. 70; IMG Academy, FL), OF Jason Hodges (No. 75; Marist HS, IL) and C Kurtis Byrne (No. 94; Christian Brothers College HS, MO).

There are also many talented underclassmen, including nine in the top 100 of the 2020 Overall Rankings—RHP/OF Jared Jones (No. 2; La Mirada HS, CA), OF Pete Crow-Armstrong (No. 3; Harvard-Westlake HS, CA), RHP Victor Mederos (No. 9; Monsignor Pace HS, FL), RHP Max Rajcic (No. 21; Orange Lutheran HS, CA), SS Drew Bowser (No. 36; Harvard-Westlake HS, CA), SS Sammy Infante (No. 38; Monsignor Pace HS, FL), RHP Christian Rodriguez (No. 44; Orange Lutheran HS, CA) and C Emilio Morales (No. 57; La Mirada HS, CA).

Read up on the teams and more prospects in the capsules below.

Blessed Trinity Catholic HS, GA
Coming off a 34-5 season and final four finish, Blessed Trinity has six returning starters and isn’t short on athleticism. SS C.J. Abrams (Alabama) leads the offense as the No. 5 player in the country and will undoubtedly wreak havoc on the bases with his speed. Other seniors leading the way include 2B Jake Smith and OF Steele Chambers, who are committed to Air Force and Ohio State respectively as multi-sport athletes. 2019 OF Ryan Davis doesn’t have Abrams’ speed, but he is aggressive on the bases and has a high baseball IQ. 2020 RHP Trey Baker stands at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds and can pitch in the high 80s. RHP/1B D.J. Radtke offers some youthful talent as a sophomore committed to Auburn.

Christian Brothers College HS, MO
Christian Brothers had a somewhat disappointing season in 2018, going 17-13-1 with a loss in the district tournament, but is led by C Kurtis Byrne (Texas Christian), currently the No. 1 player in Missouri’s 2019 class. His arm strength and bat have a major impact on game, having hit .415 with seven home runs as a junior. 2021 LHP Christian Little (Vanderbilt) gives Christian Brothers a frontline arm, as he has represented Team USA the last couple years and can sit in the low 90s on the mound. As a freshman, he went 3-1 with a 1.72 ERA. 2022 RHP Grant Richars is likely to be a factor on the mound as a freshman. He showed a mid-80s fastball last summer. Adding to the Cadets’ strength up the middle, SS Cole Turnbeagh (Maryville) is a solid defender. 2019 3B Colin Bergmann (Saint Louis) provides depth to the lineup as a physical and aggressive right-handed bat.

Corona Del Sol HS, AZ
The Aztecs were bounced from the postseason in a 6A play-in game, but started three sophomores and have nearly their entire team back. The 2020 starters last year were SS Hunter Haas (Oregon State), 1B Bryan Webb (Grand Canyon) and OF Cade Verdusco (Grand Canyon). Haas led the team in batting with a .479 clip while Webb and Verdusco provided plenty of support with averages of .396 and .388 respectively. Verdusco also excels on defense, getting good reads in center field and playing faster than his running times would suggest. 2019 LHP Daniel Sotelo (New Mexico State) is competitive on the mound, sititng in the low to mid 80s. 2020 RHP David Utagawa has the highest ceiling on the team, showing feel for three pitches, including a fastball up to 87. 2019 SS Brian Kalmer (Arizona State) returns from a big junior campaign in which he hit .472—good for second on the team—with a team-best nine home runs.

Delbarton HS, NJ
The Green Wave returns a star-studded core of elite-level prospects to its Parochial A  runner-up squad from last year. Leading the pack is a pair of 2019 Vanderbilt recruits in RHP Jack Leiter and SS Anthony Volpe. Leiter's ascent started last spring, when he was sitting in the low to mid 90s with his fastball, and complemented it with a late-breaking curveball for strikes and a changeup with swing-and-miss potential. Volpe has been on scouts’ radars for quite some time, and solidified his status with Team USA at the Pan Am Games, where he was a constant in the three-hole for the Americans. Volpe's quickness, baseball I.Q., and powerful right-handed bat will be the catalyst Delbarton. Joining Leiter on the pitching staff is 2019 North LHP Shawn Rapp (North Carolina), who has quite the repertoire himself. The lanky lefty sits in the mid to upper 80s with a sharp, downer breaker for strikes as well. The Green Wave also returns key contributors in 2020s 1B Kyle Vinci and C Willie Schwarick, and 2019s 3B Justin Kim and OF Thomas Colicchio. 2020 1B/OF Aidan Kane, a 2018 Future Games participant, transferred and should contribute in the middle of the order once his transfer is cleared with the NJSIAA. He is one of the top uncommitted players in the state.

Desert Oasis HS, NV
The Diamondbacks went 30-5 in 2018, finishing in the quarterfinals of the loser’s bracket in Nevada’s 4A state playoffs. Returning in 2019 are seven starters, six of which are pitchers. 2019 RHPs Aaron Roberts (California) and D.J. Jefferson (Southern California) are the top two prospects in the state, while LHP Campbell Holt (Southern California) checks in at No. 8. 2019 LHP Josh Sharman (Nevada-Las Vegas) adds to the depth on the mound and the staff will be commanded by 2019 C Parker Schmidt (Oregon). He hit .441 last year, leading the starters on offense. Not only does Roberts feature a blazing fastball, but he also was second on the team in hitting last year with a .394 clip and led it with six home runs.

Hagerty HS, FL
The Huskies return all of their key contributors from a 2018 regional final run, led by 2019 OF Riley Greene (Florida). Greene is arguably the best hitter in the country and will be a force to reckon with all season. After leading the team with a .393 average and five home runs in 2018, Greene will look to have a huge year in 2019. He is not alone in the lineup, protected by 2019s SS Vaughn Grissom (Florida International), OF Trey Bradley and C Robby Post. Grissom batted .346 in 2018 and Trey Bradley batted .367 while Robby Post batted .321. 2020 IF Jackson Grabsky (Jacksonville) batted .321. Overall, the lineup is talented, deep and experienced. The Huskies do not return one dominant arm, but have several quality arms throughout their rotation.

Harvard-Westlake HS, CA
The Wolverines return to the NHSI after heartbreaking losses in the 2012-2013 championship games. They went undefeated in the ever-powerful Mission League last spring, but lost in the first round of the playoffs and finished the season at 26-4. Leading the pitching staff will be 2019s RHP Sam Hliboki (Vanderbilt) and LHP Jack Limongelli (Princeton). On offense, Harvard-Westlake has two of the top 2020s in OF Pete Crow-Armstrong (Vanderbilt) and SS Drew Bowser (Stanford) with support coming from 3B Michael Snyder (Washington) and the return of MIF Tyler Cox, who missed last season with an injury.

Hendersonville HS, TN
In 2018, the Commandos lost in the district semifinals and finished with a 29-6 record, but they return 14 players from that squad, including one of the top left-handers in the country. 2019 LHP Hayden Mullins (Auburn) will lead a pitching staff that expects contributions from 2019s RHP Cameron Hansen, RHP Brandon Tucker (Freed Hardeman), RHP Kobe Carter (Cumberland), 3B/RHP Hayden Layne (Freed Hardeman) and 2020 RHP Caid Sanders. Mullins can run his fastball into the low 90s while Hansen can pitch in the high 80s, touching 90. Layne has good bat speed and projectable power, as does 2019 C Nate Vaughn.

Huntington Beach HS, CA
Huntington Beach finished 26-6 in 2018, winning the Sunset League, but losing in the second round of the playoffs. Several key Division I recruits return and the Oilers add a transfer. A strong pitching staff will be led by 2019 LHP/1B Josh Hahn (UCLA), with 2019 OF/LHP Eddie Pelc (San Diego), 2021 OF/LHP Shane Stafford (San Diego State), 2019 RHP Jeremy Wiegmann (Cal State San Marcos) and 2019 LHP Dylan Ramirez (Cal State San Marcos) adding depth. Offensively, Hahn figures to lead the way as well, with 2020s Jake Vogel (UCLA) and Jag Burden (California) providing support. Transferring in is 2019 SS Brett Barrera (Stanford) With three previous trips to the NHSI and a title, Huntington Beach isn’t short on experience.

IMG Academy, FL
IMG has seen plenty of talent pass through its campus in the last decade, but the 2019 roster might the best yet. Six Ascenders find themselves in the top 500, including four in the top 100. 2019 RHP Brennan Malone (North Carolina) transferred in for his senior year, as did SS Rece Hinds (Louisiana State) and 3B Josh Rivera (Florida). Malone and 2019 Kendall Williams (Vanderbilt) make up arguably the best one-two punch in the country. Hinds and Rivera will anchor a lineup that won’t let up one through nine. OF Kyle Westfall (Texas Tech) has blazing speed and 1B/C Will Bartlett (Arizona) and C Jax Cash (South Carolina) have big right-handed power.

La Mirada HS, CA
The Matadores went 26-4-1 in 2018, losing in the second round, but have a strong core returning that made it to the championship game of the Boras Classic South tournament. RHP/OF Jared Jones (Southern California) is the top 2020 in the state and C/RHP Emilio Morales (Southern California) is No. 9, giving La Mirada two top-flight dual threats. 2019 C Darius Perry (UCLA) is ranked No. 21 in the state and is a strong defender with a powerful right-handed bat. The Matadores figure to be highly competitive for a couple years with a deep junior class that also includes 3B Eugene Jeon (UC Santa Barbara), SS Jimmy Blumberg (Long Beach State) and RHP Michael DeHaro (Long Beach State).

Marist HS, IL
Bounced from the sectional finals in 2018, Marist returns one of the best lineups in Illinois. 2020 OF Dane Thomas (Wright State) is a legitimate leadoff hitter with plus speed and the ability to handle the bat. Likely joining him in the outfield and driving him in will be 2019 OFs Kendal Ewell (Eastern Kentucky) and Jason Hodges (Arkansas), who may slot it at first base when 1B/RHP Justin Janas (Illinois) gets on the bump. Janas provides doubles power and is one of the Redhawks’ top arms, pitching in the low 80s while mixing his timing and speeds. UT/RHP Jack Brannigan (Notre Dame) is a dynamic player with excellent athleticism. He also closes games and has been up to 94. C/IF Max Malley (Evansville) is undersized, but a legitimate defender behind the plate. 2021 SS Noah Smith (Louisville) played varsity as a freshman and is the No. 2 sophomore in Illinois. The Redhawks will have to answer questions on the mound, but they have guys that can throw strikes and an offense that should keep them in any game.

Monsignor Pace HS, FL
The Spartans’ 2018 season got off to a slow start, as they lost six of their first 16 games. However, they found a groove and rattled off 14 straight wins on the way to a 24-6 record and 5-A state title. Five starting position players and six pitchers return from that team and expectations are high, especially with six players committed to Miami. Pitching will be Monsignor Pace’s strength with a rotation that includes 2019 LHP Yordani Carmona (Miami), 2020 RHP Victor Mederos (Miami) and 2019 RHP Luis Gonzalez. Hitting for power might be a question for the Spartans, but 2020 SS Sammy Infante (Miami), 2019 OF Michael Machin (Miami), 2020 C Robert Moya and 2020 2B M.C. Sagaro (Miami) return to pace the offense.

Northwest Guilford HS, NC
The designated host for the 2019 NHSI, Northwest Guilford had a first-round bye in 2018 before getting bounced in the second round. The Vikings have been a pillar of consistency in one of the state’s top areas, finishing above .500 nine of the last 11 seasons. Success at the high school level relies heavily on the middle of the diamond and with three Division I arms, a D-I catcher and two D-I middle infielders, Northwest Guilford is strong there. On the bump for the Vikings are 2019 RHP Ethan Blanchard (Navy), 2019 RHP Tim Cao (North Carolina State) and 2020 RHP/SS Hayden Summers (North Carolina). Their battery mate is 2020 C Joey Rezek (East Carolina), who is an advanced hitter, but will get help on offense from the likes of 2020 SS Gavin Mortenson (Western Carolina).

Orange Lutheran HS, CA
The Lancers are coming off two consecutive NHSI titles and a 25-8 season in which they won the daunting Trinity League and lost in the semifinals to the eventual Southern Section Division I champions. They figure to be a favorite to repeat with nine key returners from last year’s team, plus two high-level transfers. The pitching staff has five Division I recruits, though 2020 RHP Christian Rodriguez will make it six once he makes a decision. Helping him anchor the rotation will be 2020 RHP/IF Max Rajcic (UCLA), who also provides some thump at the plate. 2019 RHP/OF Evan Adolphus (Cal State Fullerton) is another two-way threat. The rest of the staff is filled out by 2019s LHP Jimmy Urban (Cal Baptist), RHP Johnny Guzman (San Diego State) and Josiah Castillo (Pepperdine). The Lancers will likely have the table set by 2019 OF Jasiah Dixon (Southern California) and 2020 OF Chad Born (Miami), with Rajcic, SS Tank Espalin (Southern California), OF Garrett Frechette (San Diego State) and C Jared Thomas (Miami) driving them in. Frechette and Thomas are the two newcomers to the roster.

South Forsyth HS, GA
The War Eagles beat 2018 RHP Ethan Hankins last year to win their region before losing to Brookwood, which made the final four, in the second round of the state tournament. South Forsyth’s strength in 2019 comes on the mound with a senior rotation that includes two Georgia Highlands JC recruits in RHPs Steven Thompson and Peyton Presley, plus a top draft prospect in RHP Landon Sims (Mississippi State). The War Eagles are a competitive group, but will need to their offense to step up behind C Colby Wheeler to give its pitching staff some support.

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