MELISSA – Reaching the bracket championship at the AABC Mattingly World Series isn’t easy. Thursday’s heat, competition, and all-day grind tested each team that took the field. In the National Division, Stix 2022 Scout and Marucci Elite 2022 – Thames emerged to play in Friday’s bracket championship. In the American Division, undefeated Dallas Tigers 17U – L. Hernandez and Texas Twelve Maroon 2022 will play for the division title. 


While just four teams remain in contention for a trip to Farmington, New Mexico to participate in the Connie Mack World Series, that doesn’t mean the standout players and performances were limited to the last teams standing. Beginning at 9:00 a.m. Thursday at the Melissa Sports Complex, some intriguing arms took the mound for their teams. 


Lefty Ryne Rodriguez, a UTA commitment, toed the rubber for Stix 2022 Scout and threw 6.0 shutout innings with eight strikes, two hits and just one walk. Repeatedly, Rodriguez used a heavy, lively fastball with late arm-side run to frustrated 5 Star Performance 17U National hitters and threw a 73-75 MPH curve for a strike. Rodriguez, thanks to his ability to repeat his delivery and his strike-throwing, needed just 68 pitches and has feel for a changeup too. 

5 Star Performance 17U National sent Texas 2022 commitment Collin Valentine to the mound. A skinny lefty who doesn’t lack room to fill out, Valentine showed a four-pitch mix – fastball, curve, slider and changeup. However, Valentine lasted just 2.1 innings and relied almost exclusively on his fastball (82-84 MPH) and slider (76 MPH); the former showed solid command to the glove-side while the latter resulted in trouble for the young lefty against a good Stix lineup. With a clean arm action and some feel for pitching and spin, Valentine was an intriguing arm despite the short outing.

At the plate for 5 Star Performance 17U National, left-handed bat Cole Tabor continued his strong tournament by driving a double to the deepest part of the park in left-center with a pretty, smooth left-handed swing that generates lift. Currently uncommitted, the Reagan (San Antonio) product stayed through the baseball well against a lefty running fastballs in on lefties. 

For Stix 2022 Scout, uncommitted bat Weston Duncan (Guyer) pulled two hard singles against inside fastballs, showing some bat speed and hand quickness. Later in the afternoon, Oklahoma 2023 commitment Jaxon Willits heated up at the plate, showcasing his all-around solid game while playing solid, confident defense at shortstop. 

Marucci Elite 2022 – Thames righty Ryan Hanks made a strong case as the top pitcher of the day. Listed at 6-2, 215 pounds, Hanks is an imposing figure on the mound, especially when he reaches back for 90 MPH with his four-seam up in the strike zone. With a simple delivery and low leg-kick, Hanks, from Klein Cain, pitched with good rhythm between his arm and lower half, allowing his stuff to finish well out front. 

Speaking of the stuff, Hanks flashed a promising curveball with big, 12-6/11-5 break and noticeable feel for spin. When Hanks created some angle with his fastball, he was tough to handle, which led to seven strikeouts across 4.1 innings. As he matures, Hanks has the appearance of a pitcher that could add significant velocity and carry it deep into outings. Major intrigue. Behind Hanks, Texas 2022 commitment Jayden Duplantier continued to play excellent, smooth defense at shortstop. 


Once Hanks left the game, Texas Trosky 2022 – Ina was able to enjoy some more success at the plate. Jose Vargas, uncommitted in the 2022 class, has an approach and aggressive swing aimed to punish the baseball, especially down in the zone against stuff his bat can catch out front with extension. Vargas tied the game in the top of the seventh inning with a three-run bomb to center, showcasing his ability to impact the baseball after enduring some swing-and-miss issues in earlier games. 


After falling behind early, Texas Trosky 2022 – Ina was kept in the game by right-hander Jonathan Valdez, who threw 6.0 competitive innings and gave up two runs on five hits, four walks and five strikeouts. Although the walk rate was high, Valdez’s misses weren’t by much. There’s effort present in the delivery as Valdez reaches back for 84-87 MPH fastballs and his hard, downer curve sat around 75-76 MPH with some flashes of 11-5 spin and quality. Valdez threw a changeup including against righties, but its big arm-side run showed early. 

Scouts flocked to GPS Legends 17U Puffer’s game at 11:30 to get eyes on Texas 2022 commitment Pierce George. Listed at 6-5, 200 pounds, George, who attends Lake Travis, appeared much closer to 250 pounds than he did 200 pounds. Although he has the physique of a 3-4 defensive end, George wasn’t a tight, muscle-bound athlete that lacked athleticism on the mound. 


During his first inning, George touched 92 MPH and moved his fastball up-and-down the zone. With a slight gather in his delivery and front shoulder pointed upwards, George pushes off his backside, and as he grows into his body, there’s room for plus-plus velocity. Unfortunately, his outing lasted just 1.1 innings because control and command weren’t present in the second inning, with a fastball that ranged from 83-90 MPH as the big righty searched for feel. George showed a few sliders at 76-79 MPH. 


While the GPS Legends 17U Puffer roster includes standouts committed to Oregon, Baylor, Louisiana, Wichita State and Texas A&M, uncommitted 2022 bat Zachary Mazoch took the best swings against Prairie Gravel 17U’s Aidan Murphy, who threw very well. From the left side, Mazoch, who nailed a runner stealing earlier in the week with 1.94 pop time, drilled a double to the right field fence in one at-bat and smacked a very deep fly ball caught in left-center in another. Mazoch showed bat-to-ball ability throughout the Mattingly World Series and finished with a .600/.692/.700 slash line in four games.

As for Murphy, the righty went the distance and gave up just two runs on eight hits with five strikeouts across 7.0 innings. A product of Center Grove High School in Indiana, Murphy carried 83-86 MPH deep into his outing. But the righty’s curve was his calling card, and flashed as a possible future plus pitch. Murphy manipulated the pitch at times with his velocity, and at its best, it was a tight-spinning, 12-6 breaker routinely racking up swings and misses. Murphy also showed a changeup at 79-81 MPH. 

A couple of tall, loose athletes playing outfield for their respective teams stood out. First, Swat Academy Rebels 2022 standout Jaden Gustafson (Maize High School – Wichita, Kansas) displayed some of the best bat speed of the event. A left-handed hitter who appeared to be a very athletic  6-4, Gustafson pulled his hands inside to handle pitches on the inner half and also extended them to drive pitches up the middle or the other way. 

A very intriguing player, Gustafson doesn’t lack tools and probably won’t be uncommitted for long. He struck out just once in four games and hit .385/.467/.462. Victus Scout Team 2022’s Josh Comeaux, listed at 6-5, 200 pounds, played outfield and some first base. Like Gustafson, Comeaux, who attends Klein Collins, struck only once in four games and slashed .600/.692/1.100. Unlike Gustafson, Comeaux swings from the right side. He starts upright with a noticeable stride towards the pitcher while his hands move back and the bat wraps some, but that didn’t prevent him from hitting spin down in the zone and fastballs up in the zone. 

Hawai’i Elite 2G suffered one of the most heartbreaking losses of the event by bouncing into double plays with the bases loaded in both the sixth and seventh innings of a 1-0 game. The loss ended the team’s run towards the Mattingly World Series crown and spoiled an excellent, very competitive outing by undersized lefty Brayden Hiraki. 

Committed to Cal State University Northridge, Hiraki challenged hitters with an 85-89 MPH fastball early in his outing, showed a changeup around 72 MPH and frustrated Marucci Elite 2022 – Thames hitters with a 68-72 MPH curveball. With late, sharp break and 12-6 spin, Hiraki’s hook was used early in counts for strikes and late in counts for uncomfortable takes or whiffs. 


Once again, uncommitted catcher Beau Sylvester stood out behind the plate, which included picking off a runner at second base from a knee to end an inning. Teammate Freddy Rodriguez competed at a consistent level in the batter’s box, and spoiled pitches to work a walk in one of the best at-bats of a highly competitive game.

Recently, DFW Twins 17U Black’s Tate Yardley touched 91 MPH on the mound during the Houston College Championships and also fired 6.1 shutout, one-hit innings versus the NTXBC Dirtbags 2022 Woods during the Mattingly World Series. Yardley, an impressive, physical prospect, also played shortstop well and showcased his versatility and athleticism. Yardley attends Jim Ned High School and is currently uncommitted. 

Texas Oilers 17U Hamblin/Hancock’s duo of Christian Key (raw power) and Troy Piesker (bat, glove) showed intriguing looks during Thursday afternoon’s action and Southlake Carroll prospect Tyson Drake patrolled center field very well for Impact Baseball Club Worley. Although Drake’s offensive numbers weren’t impressive, he performed better with the bat than those numbers suggest. 


And to end, I have to give some love to Dallas Tigers 17U L. Hernandez’s Andrew Nester, who blasted a three-run walk-off homer to beat the loaded Texas Twelve Maroon.

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

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