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Day 1 Standouts in HTX College Champs

Houston College Championships: Scouting standouts day one…

HOUSTON – At one point, as they typically do in Houston, the skies looked ominous. But the rain stayed away and allowed the talent to show on the field at Reckling Park on the campus of Rice University. In particular, a loaded 17U division of the Five Tool Texas Houston College Championships stood out and attracted area MLB scouts and college assistant coaches.

Jayden Duplantier impressed defensively. (photo: @jduplantier88)

HP Baseball – Cunningham and Marucci Elite Texas – Thames battled to a 6-6 tie during some of the early action at Rice. On the mound for Marucci Elite – Thames, 6-3 right-hander Griffin Kasemeyer (Friendswood) helped keep his team in the game and opposing bats in check thanks in large part to his breaking ball.

Routinely, the lanky righy spun a 68-70 MPH curveball with a spin rate between 2800-2900 RPM and the depth and spin of the pitch helped keep opposing hitters off-balance. Kasemeyer did show a hint of changeup feel with some arm-side fade, but the breaking ball is his out pitch now and in the future. At times, his long arm-action in the back affected his finish out front, but he showed enough feel to generate outs.

Offensively, Marucci Elite – Thames was led by first baseman Reese Beheler (George Ranch). From the left side, Beheler packed a punch, which included a hard single with an exit velocity of 101 MPH. Right fielder Zachary Fields (Tomball Memorial) also showed some juice as well, which included lining a very hard and loud single up the middle against a fastball up in the zone.

Lamar University commitment Arrington Eason had a big two-out, two-strike RBI single for HP Baseball – Cunningham. Down in the count after missing a breaking ball, Eason was ready for a fastball up in the zone and sent it screaming back up the middle for a run-scoring single. Blake Binderup, a Texas A&M commitment, didn’t lack physicality, is an imposing presence in the batter’s box, and looked to do damage to his pull-side.

On the mound, right-hander Amar Tsengeg was up to 84 MPH and pitched out of a late jam. Laird pounded the zone primarily with a two-pitch mix, which featured a sharp curveball with plus spin. Unafraid to challenge hitters, Laird would throw his breaking ball in any count.

The highlight of the game came from Jeric Curtis’ baserunning. After reaching first base, Curtis was picked off and found himself in a rundown, but used his athleticism and quickness to juke the first baseman out of a tag. He then stole second base, third and would score when he aggressively broke for home on a wild pitch that didn’t get that far away from the plate.

Marucci Elite – Thames was back on the field the next game against Texas Twelve Maroon and Future Texas Longhorn Jayden Duplantier (Summer Creek) had the look of a young player who could stick at shortstop in the future. With a quiet setup and swing, Duplantier routinely put the ball in play for Marucci Elite – Thames and showed impressive speed by getting down the line in 4.1 seconds on a grounder. With confident actions defensively and in the batter’s box, Duplantier carried himself like a future star.

The game ended in a 2-2 tie because of the work done on the mound. For Texas Twelve Maroon, lefty Shane Sdao (2022 – Lake Creek) started and looked the part of an intriguing lefty. With a loose arm, Sdao sat 86-88 MPH in the early innings and bumped 91 MPH. His changeup was firm in the upper 70’s, but his breaking ball showed promise particularly when it showed more of a slider shape with slightly harder velocity than the curveball shape 72-74 MPH.

Sdao flashed feel for a backfoot breaking ball to a righty for a strikeout, and although he fought his control throughout his outing, his arm action and delivery suggest control could be a strength in the future. Among Sdao’s biggest challenges early was Beheler, who smacked a ball 99 MPH off the bat and showed impressive competitiveness and some bat-to-ball skill.

Defensively, Sdao and Texas Twelve Maroon pitchers were aided by 2022 LSU commitment Jace LaViolette in center field. At 6-5, the lefty moved extremely well and showed noteworthy athleticism along with good reads and routes to deep fly balls across the outfield.

Right-hander Jacob Rogers started for Marucci Elite – Thames and bumped 92 MPH early in his outing; later, he sat 86-88 MPH before velocity dipped as he tired. A strike-thrower with impressive control, Rogers (Friendswood) primarily attacked hitters with his fastball-curveball combo; he showed some feel for a very straight changeup that was used sparingly.

Texas Twelve Maroon didn’t have difficulty putting the ball in play consistently against Rogers, but his control prevented big innings. Among those to find a way on base for Texas Twelve Maroon was Texas A&M commitment Mason Ruiz. Ruiz, a left-handed hitter and first baseman, showed an advanced approach in the batter’s box with a slow heartbeat and solid strike zone awareness.

It probably helped Rogers he was throwing to a familiar face, 2022 catcher Dylan Maxcey. Maxcey, a standout from Friendswood and a Texas Tech commitment, is an athletic catcher who moves well behind the plate and showcased some of the best catch-and-throw skill in the state of Texas, which included gunning down a runner at second base who had a good jump.

Lathen Buzard (2022 – Fort Bend Travis) provided the biggest swing of the game when he smashed a fastball off the top of the wall in left field. A physical 6-3, Buzard looked like a dangerous hitter in the middle of the Marucci Elite – Thames lineup along with Fields and Duplantier. The former hammered a single 98 MPH off the bat and adjusted his swing later in the count after taking a home run hack when trying to ambush a first-pitch fastball.

Late in the game, Texas Twelve Maroon turned to right-hander Will Croft (2022 – Bridgeland). Croft showed a true three-pitch mix with a fastball that bumped 87 MPH, 2800-2900 RPM curve and feel for a 78-80 MPH changeup. Although there was noticeable effort in the delivery, Croft held his stuff and competed well.

Meanwhile, 6-5 lefty Michael Benzor was doing his thing on the mound for Marucci Elite – Thames. A 2022 prospect from North Shore, Benzor didn’t lack intrigue on the mound, and was up to 89 MPH while sitting 86-88 MPH throughout his outing. Although his arm action was long and a bit noisy, Benzor was an impressive athlete capable of repeating his delivery and finishing his pitches out front. Once he found feel for his curveball, he snapped off one that buckled a lefthanded hitter. Currently uncommitted, Benzor should have schools reaching out to him when they can because he has the look of a lefty with potential.

Thursday’s action at Reckling Park ended with a competitive matchup between 2023 teams with the Canes Premier edging out HP Baseball – Heard, 5-3. Colin Carney, a 6-5 righty, threw very deep into the game for HP Baseball – Heard. Although he didn’t get the team result he wanted when he left a tie game, the Porter High School product touched 85 MPH and manipulated his breaking ball occasionally with success.

Often, very tall young pitchers can have trouble repeating their delivery and arm action and that was true with Carney. However, he carried his stuff deep into his outing and made good corrections on the mound. Canes Premier did damage with free passes at the end of Carney’s outing and after he departed, which helped it erase a 3-1 deficit early in the game.

What also helped was the competitive effort on the mound from 2023 Stony Point pitcher Lawrence Lara. Once he settled in, Lara touched 84 MPH with a fastball that routinely missed bats and was successful in routinely challenging the opposing lineup. Of note: 2023 TCU commitment Holden Harris played third base and had the highest exit velocity of the game when he drove a ball 95 MPH off the bat deep into left-center that was caught. Standout 2023 catcher Elliott Foreman had a quiet game at the plate, but did pick off a runner at first base.

TJ Peters (Magnolia) and Kyle Chambers (Cy Fair) both stood out for HP Baseball – Heard. Chambers burned the center fielder with a liner for a triple and Peters competed well in the box consistently.

Dustin McCommas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball