MPB 17u/18u Top Prospect Series: Day 1 Notes

MPB 17u/18u Top Prospect Series: Day 2 Notes

MAUSTON, Wis. – Entering the bottom of the sixth inning down by four runs with Next Level Baseball holding a 5-1 lead, Hitters Baseball Navy apparently just needed some time for their bats to wake up. They did just that, and then some, exploding for six runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 7-5 lead on their way to securing a 7-6 win in the championships game of the 2021 Midwest Premier 17u/18u Top Prospect Series.

The bulk of the damage was done by three key Hitters, each of whom hit the ball hard to the outfield to drive in runs. Hayden Christiansen hit a two-run double that made it 5-4, Michael Lippe hit a run-scoring rocket to center field to tie the game, 5-5, and Sam Meidenbauer pushed the Hitters ahead by a score of 7-5 with another two-run single up the middle.

In the top of the seventh inning Next Level Baseball continued to put pressure on the Hitters and had runners on second and third with one out. When Max Colombo hit a hard-hit single to left field it looked like the game would be tied once again. However, a quick, on-the-money relay throw by third baseman Noah Miller and a great, athletic tag by catcher Joey Spence nailed the trail runner at home and held Next Level’s rally to only one run.

A flyout to center field by the following batter ended the game with the Hitters emerging victorious.

“Like we always do, we always go out and compete. It’s a little tough right now because Ro would have been a big part of it,” Hitters Baseball owner and Navy head coach RJ Fergus said after the game referring to his former Hitters coach and friend, the late Ro Coleman. “We won so many with him. It’s always good with our group to play in the Midwest that we are with this age group, the 21s and 22s, the premier team in the Midwest.

“They’ve worked too hard to fail in that situation.”

Next Level Baseball righthander Maverick Rockers got the starting nod and pitched admirably through 5 1/3 innings, really doing a good job of inducing contact and letting the defense behind him do their work. The hardest hit he allowed was to the very first batter he faced, Hitters leadoff man Ian Choi, who started the bottom of the first with a rocket double to right-center field. Choi advanced to third on a flyout by Gavin Kilen and scored on another flyout off the bat of Noah Miller to give the Hitters an early 1-0 lead.

It didn’t take long for Next Level to even things up as Carter Bergman yanked a pitch over the fence in left field for a solo home run in the top of the second inning to make it a 1-1 game.

Harding-hitting middle infielder Jackson Herbel, who had been swinging a hot stick in every game Next Level played leading up to the championship tilt, stayed red hot, collecting three more base hits in this game. The second of which was a ground-rule double hit to the gap in left-center to lead off the fourth inning. He later would score to give Next Level a 2-1 lead.

They added two more runs in the fourth thanks to an RBI single to right field off the bat of Bryce Turner and another RBI knock, this one to left, by Austin Nitcher to give Next Level what seemed like a fairly comfortable 4-1 lead. An RBI single served to center field by Herbel in the fifth inning put NLB up 5-1.

In addition to providing his team’s go-ahead and eventual winning runs, Meidenbauer was also the pitcher of record in this game after coming on in relief of starter DJ Kojis and working the game’s final three innings.

The two teams had squared off less than 24 hours earlier, a more convincing 7-0 win by Hitters Navy as both teams played in the same pool leading up to Sunday’s semifinal and championship games.

“They’re strong, they compete,” Fergus said about the Kansas-based Next Level Baseball squad after facing them twice. “They’re a really, really good club. This whole event has been so good and we faced premium arms every game. So we just went out and grinded it out, [we] didn’t quit.”

Next Level Baseball got to the championship game by taking down Perfect Timing Red 1-0 in eight innings. The game was decided in the top of the eighth on a close play at home plate in which the NLB runner was called safe. From there, Next Level’s pitching staff, and defense, wrapped things up with a scoreless bottom of the eighth.

The Hitters semifinal win came over Brew State Baseball, a 7-2 victory that saw Hitters Navy in control for most of the game. Kilen scored the first run of the game after recording a base hit, advancing to second and third on bad pickoff throws and then scoring on a wild pitch. Kilen added a booming, two-run double later in the game and Miller had a run-scoring double of his own as well as a two-run single.

Brew State made thing interesting late when Ryan Blanchard drove an RBI triple high and deep to right-center field, but that would end the game’s scoring.

On the mound, Righthander Jake Dasso used a low-80s fastball and a mid- to upper-60s curveball to record most of his outs for Hitters Navy, showing good deception out of his hand with a quirky, somewhat crossfire delivery.

Next Level finished the tournament 4-2. Hitters Navy went 5-0-1.

Quick Hits

• Brew State Baseball righthander Tyler Gall kept the Hitters Navy team off the board initially, effectively mixing between an 82-85 mph fastball and a big-bending, high-spin, upper-60s to low-70s curveball that he commanded well and used to record some big outs with. Gall is committed to play at Bryant and Stratton College, a JUCO located in Milwaukee, Wis.

• In Next Level Baseball’s 1-0 semifinal win, Jacob Key pitched extremely well for the Arkansas-based Perfect Timing Red squad. Key pitched into the eighth and final inning displaying a calm and poised demeanor on the mound. He didn’t throw especially hard, throwing his fastball in the mid- to upper-70s, but he really snapped off his mid-60s curveball well and really knew how to pitch.

• In one of the day’s early consolation games, Hitters Baseball White lefthanded hitting outfielder Charlie Marion hit a solo home run that got out of the yard in a hurry, exhibiting very quick and strong hands on the swing. With a lean and athletic frame, it’s easy to envision Marion adding positive strength over the next few years without losing the looseness to his body and overall actions. The home run was Marion’s second, also hitting one out in Friday’s pool play action.

• After writing about Perfect Timing Blue shortstop Kent Carlisle after Saturday’s action, he took the mound on Sunday and continued to show well. His delivery was athletic and repeatable as he produced easy 80 mph fastballs.

• Noah Miller, Hitters Navy’s No. 3 batter, is expected to be taken in the top 2-3 rounds of next month’s MLB Draft. The switch-hitting shortstop may have been this event’s MVP after going 6-for-16 (.375) with a pair of doubles and 11 RBIs in six games.

Jackson Herbel also would have been in that discussion, as the 2022 middle infielder batted 8-for-16 (.500) in six games with five doubles and six RBIs. He also walked four times and struck out only twice. Herbel is uncommitted.