Houston College Championships Superlatives, Tidbits and More

 

Rain tried to emerge as Saturday and Sunday’s champion during the Houston College Championships, but it couldn’t prevent Texas Twelve from claiming the 17U/18U title (Maroon 2022) and 15U (Gold 2024) championships. Obviously, I couldn’t get eyes on every team and every player at every location, but this weekend’s action across Houston and College Station/Huntsville afforded a great opportunity to see many of the state’s best teams and players. 

 

A few thoughts, beginning with some members of the champion squads and some unpublished 2024 notes from Saturday’s games at Rice:

 

Loudest performance: Blake Mitchell (2023 – Sinton) caught the attention of everyone at Rice University Saturday when he entered for a relief appearance and tossed 2.0 dominant innings for Texas Twelve Maroon 2023. The hard-throwing, athletic right-hander touched 94 MPH with angle and a repeatable delivery. When he wanted to, he snapped off a 77 MPH curve that flashed as a plus pitch. A talented two-way player, Mitchell, who also catches, also finished the event with a .400 batting average. 

 

Another two-way player, Texas Twelve Gold 2024’s Peyton Reynolds (Bellville) enjoyed an outstanding weekend for his championship squad. He showed off his bat by smashing a no-doubt bomb to left field at the University of Houston and finished the event with a slash line of .500/.600/1.375. On the mound, Reynolds, a righty, tossed 7.0 scoreless frames with nine strikeouts, five hits, and three walks. 

Anytime a 16U player touches 95 MPH off the mound, it qualifies as a loud performance. Oklahoma State commit Chase Shores, who attacks hitters with a very low three-quarters and nearly sidearm angle, struck out four across 3.0 innings and gave up two runs on four hits and two walks. Because of his arm angle, Shores’ fastball tends to ride to his arm-side and when he’s able to get on top of his heater and breaking ball, he’s really tough to handle. 

Watching these guys hit was fun: Texas Twelve Maroon 2023’s Jaquae Stewart doesn’t get cheated from the left side in the batter’s box and takes some aggressive hacks meant to do damage. That said, his aggressive swing is controlled and in rhythm with his hip rotation, which allows him to do things like smash a double into the right-center gap 98 MPH off the bat. Stewart, who attends Sinton, has an approach to all parts of the field and exudes a lot of natural hitting vibes. 

I don’t know how often Klein Oak’s Matt Scott II has seen low 90’s velocity, but I know the first time he saw it against Mitchell he smashed a rocket to deep left-center that was caught. The next day, the Lonestar National 2024 – Sanders outfielder hit a missile off the facility beyond left field at Texas A&M. The Oklahoma commit has loud tools and unleashes a quick, strong swing capable of doing a lot of damage.

Plate discipline: Watch 2022 Bryan standout Mason Ruiz a couple times and immediately his plate discipline, pitch recognition and strike zone awareness stand out. Ruiz, committed to Texas A&M and a two-way player for Texas Twelve Maroon 2022, consistently put together excellent at-bats and refused to chase out of the zone. He finished with 10 walks and zero strikeouts, and during the action I watched, I can’t recall seeing him swing and miss once. 

Don’t be fooled by the numbers: Although he finished with a slash line of .167/.167/.250, Marucci Elite 2022 – Thames third baseman Lathen Buzard (Fort Bend Travis) swung the bat well and didn’t strike out once. He hit the left-center wall on the fly at Rice, showed solid hand-eye coordination and didn’t strike out once. 

Also, Buzard’s teammate Reese Beheler experienced some bad batted-ball luck as well. From the left side with a pull-side approach, the George Ranch product hit a hard single 99 MPH off the bat and put together competitive at-bats consistently.

 

Also, Houston Heat 2024 – Red’s Dawson Park was much better than his .214/.214/.357 slash line suggests. Hitting in the heart of the lineup, Park, who attends Magnolia West, made loud contact repeatedly, showed impressive bat speed and looks like a definite hitter to follow in 2024.

 

Defense: One of the most enjoyable things to watch this past weekend was 6-5 Jace LaViolette patrol center field for Texas Twelve Maroon 2022. Listed at 6-5, LaViolette, committed to LSU, read the ball well off the bat and glided across the field with surprising athleticism and took good routes to track down fly balls in the gaps. It’s not often you see a young player with his height move as athletically as the Tompkins product did. 

 

If anyone doubted Summer Creek 2022 standout Jayden Duplantier’s ability to play shortstop heading into this weekend, his play made a loud statement he can stick at short in college. Playing for Marucci Elite 2022 – Thames, the future Texas Longhorn showed confident, smooth defensive actions at shortstop with soft hands and range to both sides, especially his arm-side. Duplantier’s Marucci teammate Dylan Maxcey, a Texas Tech commit, was often excellent behind the plate and showed noteworthy catch-and-throw skill.

In the 2024 class, keep an eye on Ridge Point’s Johnathan Moye. At third base, Moye reacted quickly and handled some tough chances with soft hands and an accurate arm to first base. Moye, listed at 5-10 and a member of Trosky Texas 2024 – Worley, also made hard contact multiple times. 

 

Also in the 2024 class, Houston Heat 2024 – Red shortstop Braeden Scherzer displayed range to both sides with confident actions. He had the look of a promising future middle infielder. After hitting .667/.714/.833 across four games, he looks like a bat to follow too with a good swing from the left side. 

These guys probably won’t be uncommitted for long: Trosky Texas 2022 – Ina’s Rashaad James finished the Houston College Championships with a .667/.818/1.000 slash line with five walks and only one strikeout. In one game, the Kinkaid prospect hit a double 96 MPH off the bat and then hammered a ball off the left-center wall at 99 MPH off the bat. If he wasn’t on college coaches’ radar, he should be now.

 

A two-way player for Marucci Elite 2022 – Thames, Michael Benzor (North Shore) looked like a future impact pitcher at the next level. An athletic 6-5 with a loose, lively arm, Benzor was up to 89 MPH and flashed a breaking ball that buckled a batter. He is a bit raw on the mound with an arm action that includes a lot of moving parts, but he finished his pitches pretty well out front and there’s a lot for college coaches to dream on. Upside isn’t lacking. 

 

Benzor’s teammate Zach Fields (Tomball Memorial) showed quick, strong hands in the batter’s box with a confident approach and perhaps a plus arm from right field with plus speed and athleticism. Fields doesn’t lack tools and his production in the batter’s box was noteworthy. HP Baseball 2022 – Cunningham outfielder Jeric Curtis was an unstoppable force on the bases, consistently competed in the batter’s box and is a toolsy player across the board with upside. 

 

Some tidbits to finish…

Kyle Chapman Red’s Matt Stevens (2023 – St. Thomas) hammered the ball repeatedly. Listed at 6-2, Stevens had some raw power and doesn’t lack projection. 

 

Hitting at the top of the Canes Southwest – Premier 2023 lineup, Leander Rouse’s Kaden Kaspar plays like his hair is on fire. Whether it’s on the bases, in the outfield or with a bat from the left side, Kaspar’s energy and aggressiveness were noteworthy. He’s the type of player always trying to steal or take an extra base and always trying to show off his arm to throw out a runner. I didn’t get to see him on the mound, but my educated guess after seeing him in the outfield is it would be fun to watch.

 

Trosky Texas 2024 – Worley’s Drake Threadgill ripped a triple 95 MPH off the bat that burned an outfielder. An athletic runner and hitter, Threadgill is another 2024 player that showed upside. 

With feel for spinning two different breaking balls, Texas Twelve Maroon 2022 righty and Texas State commit Brian Panneton breezed through 5.0 scoreless frames with one hit, one walk and seven strikeouts. Up to 87 MPH, Panneton was unafraid to throw any pitch in any count and showed some of the best control of the event. 

 

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

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