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First High School Invitational A Resounding Success


Bruce Hefflinger and Dylan Hefflinger
PBR Ohio Senior Writer and Editor in Chief/NW Scout

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Interested in attending a PBR Ohio event? Check out our schedule by clicking here.

To view the Sights and Sounds from the HS Invitational, click here.

To view the All-Tournament Team from the HS Invitational, click here.

To view the Scout Blog from the HS Invitational, click here.

To view the Heat Sheet from the HS Invitational, click here.

First High School Invitational A Resounding Success

ROSSFORD - Ohio winter weather was defeated. Even the cold and windy conditions did not diminish the excitement generated by the first Prep Baseball Report High School Invitational.

“That championship feel was awesome,” explained St. Edward’s head coach Matt Rosinski after participating in the two-day event. “This is what we want to be part of.”

Eight strong programs from across the state came together to form a season-opening tournament atmosphere with each team playing three games in a bracket format. No matter the results, those involved in the event gave rave reviews about the 2022 edition of the Jerry Baumgartner High School Invitational.

“It was awesome,” Rosinski said. “Awesome coaches, awesome players, awesome programs in an early-season setting with so many talented and motivated teams trying to play their best.”

Walsh Jesuit head coach Chris Kaczmar had high praise as well.

“I felt the event was a RESOUNDING success for all of the teams!” related Kaczmar, whose Warriors went 3-0 on the weekend. “The attention to detail, the level of communication, the availability of top-notch facilities, the flexibility and adaptability of the tournament organizers to deal with weather….all of those things that PBR is so good at so consistently came to light throughout the months leading up to the event, and were clearly evident in the overall success of the weekend.”

Gary Knittle, whose Canfield squad finished 2-1, losing 3-2 to Walsh Jesuit in the semifinals in arguably the best game of the invite, was happy with what he saw.

“I thought the concept was great and the competition was fantastic,” Knittle said. “Other than the weather, everything was great. It was great for the game and great for Ohio baseball. The kids absolutely loved every minute of it. It’s going to make each of these teams better down the road to have played in this.”

Bill Gamble, who led Massillon Jackson to the finals against Walsh Jesuit with wins over Rossford and St. Ed’s, was also thankful for being part of the PBR invitational.

“This was an outstanding event with elite competition,” Gamble noted. “Great games all weekend long.  A huge thank you to Phil O’Shea and Rossford for hosting this event at their facilities. The great thing about baseball coaches is their ability to adapt and another thank you to Anthony Wayne and Clay high schools for hosting so we could get our Friday games in.”

Ryan Donley, in his first year in charge of the program at Anthony Wayne, was happy to help out and be part of something that could be around for a long time.

“I thought this was an outstanding early-season event,” Donley explained. “It allowed us to face some of the best teams in the state which is always beneficial. We're very appreciative of those that worked to make this possible and we hope to be invited to future events like this.”

Jim Phillips of Clay also helped host games on Friday.

“I thought it was phenomenal,” Phillips said. “Weather was the only downside, but the coaches were great and everything ran smoothly.”

Andrew Bonnett, who led Hoban to the Division II state championship a year ago, is hoping being in this invitational is beneficial en route to another great season.

“This event was an amazing opportunity for our guys to see top-tier opponents early in the year,” Bonnett pointed out. “It definitely showed us a lot about our team and the things we need to work on moving forward. All in all, Rossford was a great host and our boys had a blast.”

Phil O’Shea was both head coach and tournament director of the invitational.

“As a coach, it was a blast having my guys compete against some of the best talent in Ohio and seeing that they aren’t that far away talent-wise,” the Rossford mentor said. “Also, taking down the reigning D-II state champ is going to be something our guys will be talking about the rest of their lives.

“As a director and working for PBR, just having that much talent together representing their community and program was really cool,” O’Shea added. “Also, having this group of coaches is pretty special. It was a very unique and competitive environment that is as close to the state tournament that I can remember.”

Admittedly, an event of such magnitude did not happen without hard work.

“This was the first time the PBR team went in on an event like this and we have a lot of lessons learned and ideas on how to make it better,” related O’Shea. “Our lead up coverage is going to be better and we even have some plans of possibly going to a four-game/16-team event in the future.”

No matter what the future holds, this year proved a resounding success as every coach involved noted.

ON THE FIELD

Walsh Jesuit defeated Anthony Wayne, Canfield and Massillon Jackson to live up to its preseason billing as the top-rated Division I team in Ohio and Kaczmar was pleased with the start to the season.

“With all of the teams that were there, it was a tremendous opportunity to compete against some of the top programs in Ohio,” Kaczmar said. “We do our best to simulate situations during training, but being able to go out there with a game on the line, in the great bracket-play format that PBR uniquely created for this event with this competition, it was invaluable!”

Massillon Jackson knocked off Rossford and St. Ed’s leading up to its loss to Walsh Jesuit in the finals.

“It was great to be able to put our players and our team in a tournament-style atmosphere early in the spring season and be able to learn a lot about ourselves in high-leverage situations,” Gamble summarized.

It was also beneficial for Clay, which was beaten by Canfield before coming back to knock off local teams Anthony Wayne and Rossford.

“This is a very minor knock on an outstanding event, but I wish we had not played local teams twice, but I know with baseball it’s difficult to map out,” Phillips said. “But good baseball is good baseball and playing against top teams in the state helped test where we’re at. Now we have a better gauge of what we need to work on going into league play.”

St. Edward’s won its opener before falling to Jackson and Canfield on day two.

“The highlight for us was facing so many talented players, teams and coaches and having that feeling that eyes are on the players with all the love given by you guys at PBR,” Rosinski said.

Jordan Chiero, PBR Ohio Director of Scouting, liked what he saw.

“I thought the High School Invitational turned out even better than I could imagine,” Chiero said. “From a scouting perspective, it's so valuable to see players in-game against some of the top competition in the state. Showcases can tell you tools, but you need to see a player in-game to get a full evaluation and, even better, this event gave us the opportunity to see future college players against future college players.

“There was no question about it, we were watching eight of the best teams the state has to offer. And we had the pleasure of seeing top prospects like Landon Beidelschies, Mason Eckelman, and Grant Wilson who proved why they were so highly touted. We also saw guys like CJ Boudreaux, Michael Ciavolella, and Michael Patelis that rose their stock from their standout showings at the event.”

Throwing two no-hitters in victory was obviously a highlight for Knittle.

“The Beidelschies no-hitter with a 5:30 start and snow flurries was amazing,” the Canfield coach reflected back to Friday’s game with Clay. “We had him on a pitch count, 80-85, and after the sixth he was 77-78. Then he hits a home run in the top of the seventh and the adrenaline was going. It was a tough decision, but he wanted the ball.”

That matched Canfield up against Walsh Jesuit in a battle of the number one teams in the state in each of the top two divisions.

“That game was as advertised,” Knittle said of the 3-2 loss, with Canfield scoring two in the first and Walsh three in the sixth. “It didn’t go our way but it was a great game. We had our chances in the seventh with the bases loaded, but we didn’t get timely hitting.”

The pitching was certainly there, however, with a combined no-hitter against St. Ed’s in their third game.

“A credit there goes to our sophomore catcher, Mike Patelis,” Knittle noted. “He’s handling these great pitchers and had no passed balls. Plus, he had two big hits. He’s going to be special.”

LESSONS LEARNED

While Knittle is pleased with what he saw on the mound and behind the plate with his Canfield team, at this early juncture of the season, coaches have a lot of uncertainties. This event helped paint a better picture for those involved.

“We got to see that our guys were willing to compete even when we were faced with adversity and some defensive situations that you don't see until playoff time,” pointed out Bonnette, who led Hoban to the Division II state title a year ago. “The event really gave off a true playoff feel.”

Canfield, the top-rated D-II team in Ohio, is hoping the invitational is a springboard to a memorable season.

“We knew it coming in, but our pitching is going to be fine,” Knittle said. “We learned a lot about Nate Shaw who didn’t throw much last year. He looked like he did before.

“We also found out our bats are where they need to be, we just need more timely hitting. But overall I think we competed well. We got to see a lot of D-I arms, quality arms as good as we’re going to see the rest of the season.”

Pitching rotation, who can relieve, durability on the mound … all are things coaches are hoping to find out earlier rather than later during the spring campaign.

“This was important as far as starting to finalize our rotation in order of pitchers as we head into league play,” noted Phillips. “We saw guys do things we were looking to see. It allowed us to see where we have strengths and weaknesses.”

O’Shea had the same feelings.

“Our guys have done a ton of work over the offseason and being in this environment and going 1-2 with a really strong showing only validates what we are doing as a program,” the Rossford mentor said. “I hope we can take this momentum from the event and make a run at a Northern Buckeye Conference title.”

Lessons learned in these three games are valuable according to Donley.

“We learned that we need to do the little things right,” the first-year Anthony Wayne coach pointed out. “We struggled at times with giving teams free bases which can't happen against good clubs. Also, we struck out way too much. Our plan and approach at the plate must change if we’re going to have success offensively. Right now, our guys are free swinging and we need to focus on the basics as opposed to trying to hit the ball out of the yard every pitch.”

There was more that was revealed to coaches involved.

“The highlight for us was being able to see some of the hard work our guys put in pay off, and also having PBR help to get our players names out there,” Bonnett said.

Kaczmar was also appreciative of the coverage.

“I think a couple of the things that stood out were the level of competition that was gathered, as well as the coverage of the tournament itself from a media perspective,” the Walsh Jesuit mentor noted. “The kids all absolutely loved every part of the weekend!”

THE FUTURE

All eight coaches were not only pleased about how this year’s invitational ran, but all would be more than happy to be back in the event again, be it in 2023 or beyond.

“I can confidently say that Walsh Jesuit would welcome the opportunity to return again in 2023,” Kaczmar said.

The same goes for St. Ed’s.

“Most certainly, we want to plan on it for next year,” Rosinski said. “We’re always about playing the best teams possible and this event makes it possible.”

Massillon Jackson concurred with the others.

“We truly appreciated the imitation this season and would welcome the opportunity in the future,” Gamble said. “Thanks again for having us “ 

Hoban would gladly return as well.

“We would definitely make it a point to attend Rossford in the future,” Bonnett said. “This event was a blast!”

Clay is another that was happy with how it all turned out.

“To Phil’s credit, this is what I envisioned,” Phillips noted.

Knittle not only would like to return, but would be interested in more than one event.

“I’ve talked with some of the others about trying to come up with an idea for a midseason event for weather purposes,” Knittle related. “Then you can extend pitchers.”

With a bright future ahead in the program, Anthony Wayne would be very interested in matching up with state powers again.

“Absolutely!,” Donley said of making a return to the invitational. “Our team is very young this year and I somewhat anticipated struggling a bit. With primarily juniors on the roster, I would love to come back next year to see the improvements we've made. I think teams would be silly to pass up such a great opportunity to compete against this type of competition.”

As hosts, Rossford will definitely be back.

“Being able to host this event was great for our community and really shined a light on Rossford which has been a relative unknown in the baseball community,” O’Shea related. “We got a lot of great feedback about our facilities and our program over the weekend.”

PBR PROUD

Prep Baseball Report was pleased to be able to have such outstanding teams, players and coaches be able to compete at such outstanding facilities as Rossford, Clay and Anthony Wayne.

“When I came up with the concept of the High School Classics - three or four high-level games all in one spot on a Saturday - I always envisioned turning those into an in-season tournament,” reflected Dylan Hefflinger, PBR Ohio Editor in Chief and Northwest Ohio Scout. “After bringing Phil (O’Shea) on board, this became one of our combined goals and we made it happen.”

O’Shea thought it turned out as he imagined.

“The event was a great experience from my end and it was definitely a little nerve-racking with Mother Nature making things interesting,” O’Shea related. “There’s been a lot of positive feedback and a lot of outside programs asking how they can get involved next year.”

Alex Stefanelli, Director of Social Media for PBR Ohio, thought the event was better than he had even visualized.

“Being with Prep Baseball Report Ohio for over a year now, there’s been numerous games, events, tournaments, etc. that I’ve had the pleasure of capturing content at and this weekend ranks up there with the OHSAA State Tournament, Top Prospect Games, and Future Games,” Stefanelli said. “There was unreal talent on display and it was super competitive. As a videographer, the environment during my shots can really take the content up a notch because of the emotion, crowd reactions, and authenticity of the work and this weekend was filled with all of these components.

“It’s crazy to think this was the first annual PBR High School Invitational because of the success and domination by our staff, but it’s even more crazy to think about what this event will look like in 2023. I really believe we at PBR Ohio are finding ways to continually elevate event-experience for these programs and athletes and this weekend really showcased that!”

Chiero was more than encouraged how the invitational went and sees it as an up-and-coming experience. 

“I can't wait to see how this event grows moving forward, and truly think it has a chance to be one of the top high school events in the Midwest,” the PBR Ohio Scouting Director said.

It all points to a great future when it comes to the invitational.

“This is only the first year of our High School Invitational and, after looking at the engagement/impression numbers on twitter, it was a resounding success,” Hefflinger concluded. “Our goal now is to make it bigger and better each year. I can’t wait to see what the 2023 version of the High School Invitational has to offer!”

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