From July 1-3, Hitters Baseball hosted the Big Ro Memorial tournament at Nash Park in Kenosha, Wis., keeping the memory of long-time hitting coach Ro Coleman in their minds, spirits and hearts. Big Ro, as he was affectionately known, played a big part of several significant Hitters tournament runs over the years, known by those close to the program as a “Ro Coleman Special.” Coleman’s son, Little Ro or Ro Coleman, Jr., played at Vanderbilt from 2014-17. Big Ro passed away last October.
The intent of the Big Ro Memorial was to gather the top teams (and talent) from the greater Milwaukee and Chicago areas. There were 24 total teams that participated, 12 at the 17u (class of 2022) age division and 12 at the 16u (class of 2023) age division. Each age division was split into two groups and each team played five pool games (two each on Thursday and Friday) leading up to Saturday’s championships.
In a very fitting finish, Hitters White and Hitters Navy met in the championship game after White went 4-1 in pool play and Navy went 5-0. White, usually considered the program’s “B” team, won the championship with a 7-3 win, pointing to the incredible amount of 2022 talent in the Hitters program.
(It should be noted that the Hitters usually only have one team per age division but formed a second team several years ago due to the depth of talent in the class of 2022.)
In the 16u age division, the Pro Player Canes Green squad took down Rhino Baseball 11-0 in the championship game to claim the title.
Below are notes on the 17u players I personally observed that stood out. Please keep in mind there are four fields at Nash Park forming a four-leaf clover. While this allowed for a lot of talent to be seen, particularly since both Thursday and Friday had six games at each of the four fields, I of course could only be at one place at one time.
Stay tuned for another feature that has notes on the prospects that stood out from the 16u age division.
I’ll start with the two teams, Hitters Navy and Hitters White, that essentially served as the event hosts. Hitters Navy went a perfect 5-0 in pool play, beating Marucci Midwest, Top Tier, Sparks, Rake City and GRB, five tried and true teams from the Midwest. This is a loaded team that can compete with the very best teams in the nation and has done so, repeatedly, over the past several years.
Gavin Kilen, SS
Serving as the team’s leadoff hitter, Kilen was one of the event’s headliners and had numerous scouts camped out at the field he was playing on during the entire tournament. In his team’s first game he didn’t get much to hit, and overall it was clear teams were trying to bust him inside. His patient approach did allow him to start to get more pitches to hit, and in his second game on the first day of the event he had a pair of doubles. The first is shown in the video above, a shot to the gap in right-center. The second one I did not see but was hit over the head of the opposing team’s center fielder. He had a few other hard-hit liners through the infield, and when the bat does leave his shoulder he has a knack for squaring up the baseball. He’s an underrated overall athlete, and while he’s not a burner, he handles himself very well defensively at shortstop with soft hands, a strong arm and graceful overall actions. Kilen has very good bat speed with a quick, level swing geared for making contact to the alleys with more than enough over-the-fence power. He’s a potential first round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft and has committed to Louisville should he take the college route.
Michael Lippe, OF
Lippe is also committed to Louisville, a physical, big-bodied outfielder with a football-type build (6-3/215). Lippe was seeing the ball better at this tournament than when I had seen him a few weeks prior and was really impacting the ball with authority to the opposite field as a righthanded hitter. He wasted no time to make an impression, hitting a shot to the gap in right-center for a two-run double and adding a broken bat, RBI single to right field later in the day. On Friday he muscled a chopper back up the middle for another run-scoring single. Overall it’s a physical presence looking to hit the baseball hard and he does a good job to stay on top of the ball and hitting it where it’s pitched.
Mason Buss, RHP
Buss isn’t going to wow you with his size or his stuff, but he pounds the zone consistently mixing between a fastball that repeatedly hit 85 mph, touching 86-87 numerous times early, and a 69-72 curveball. A Kansas State recruit, Buss doesn’t seem to get rattled and really stays within himself with an advanced sense of how to execute his pitches.
DJ Kojis is another physical outfielder (6-2/175) that sees a lot of time in right field and also can pitch. He stood out in this tournament by throwing an absolute strike to third base from right field to nail a runner. Lefthander Michael Mulhollon was one of several Wichita State recruits to pitch at this event and he did well to record a lot of outs with low-80s heat from a projectable and athletic 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame. Fellow lefthander Brady Banker, and Illinois recruit, didn’t get rattled at all in his start and did well to stay poised/focused on the mound to get out of a key jam in his game, allowing just one run to score after the first two batters he faced in an inning advanced to second and third. Banker pitched to contact with well-placed 82-83 mph fastballs that induced a lot of weak popouts. Righthander Luke Klekamp is still uncommitted but should find a college home in the not-so-distant future thanks to a live arm and athletic 6-foot, 175-pound frame that produced 85-87 mph fastballs with very good arm-side run. He also throws a 72-74 curveball and a 76-78 changeup, changing speeds effectively and really proving he knows how to pitch.
The Hitters White upstaged the Hitters Navy team in the 17u championship game with a 7-3 win. In addition to the notes below, be sure to read additional thoughts on Camdin Jansen, Kendall Lyons and Charlie Marion from Days 2 and 3 at the Midwest Premier Baseball 17u/18u Top Prospect Series in Mauston from mid-June.
MPB Day 2 Notes | MPB Day 3 Notes
Kendall Lyons, RHP
Lyons’ velocity was up from where it was when I last saw it in mid-June, which was 82-86 mph at the time up to 85-87, touching 88-89 in this look. He threw predominantly fastballs, really commanding the pitch well and grabbing corners from side-to-side. He’s a UIC commit, and while there’s not a ton of projection remaining in his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame, there’s enough to believe he has a velo bump left at the next level.
James Reese, RHP
A two-way prospect that also plays the infield, Reese is a solid overall athlete with a rangy 6-foot-1, 175-pound build that is committed to play at Lafayette College. In this look he took the mound and threw 85-86 mph fastballs with a 78-79 mph changeup and a 74 mph curveball.
Righthanded pitcher Jaxson Easterlin is a Oakland University recruit with good size (6-2/175) and a good overall sense of how to pitch. He didn’t throw especially hard, sitting at 80-81 mph, but sequenced well between his fastball and 70-72 mph curveball. So while he wasn’t overpowering his command and ability to change speeds allowed his stuff to play up. Lefthander hitters Dylan Mass and Charlie Marion definitely need to be monitored moving forward. Mass recently committed to St. Leo’s University, a strong and compact athlete at 5-foot-10, 165-pounds with a really mature approach in the batter’s box. Marion is currently uncommitted but that could change in the next few weeks as he has good bat speed and can really put a charge in the ball. Camdin Jansen passes the eye test the best as a 6-foot-2, 185-pound infielder. A righthanded hitter, he hit a towering fly deep to center field for a sacrifice fly, his best, hardest contact I made during my two days in Kenosha after seeing him hit the ball over the place a few weeks earlier in Mauston.
Ashton Izzi, RHP
Izzi drew a fairly modest crowd when he took the mound on Friday. A 6-foot-3, 175-pound righthander committed to Wichita State, Izzi came out firing 91-92 mph fastballs, settling into the 88-91 mph range in his second inning of work. He wasn’t fooling the opposing hitters, at least not right away, and seemed to be more effective when he was cruising, starting to mix in his big-breaking 77 mph curveball more. He also threw one 84 mph changeup that he did a good job pulling the string on.
Christian Mitchelle, RHP
Mitchelee took the mound on Thursday throwing easy 85-86 mph fastballs while mixing in a really sharp 73-74 curveball. A 6-foot, 185-pound righthander, Mitchelle’s arm works well and the Rhino Baseball staff told me he has topped out at 91 mph, which isn’t too hard to believe. It’s easy to envision him taking another step forward, and with his athleticism, two-pitch mix and ability to miss bats, he’ll find himself committed, possibly before the end of the summer.
Grant Cleavinger, LHP
Cleavinger took on the loaded Hitters Navy team in the very first time slot of the tournament and showed signs of promise despite not being overpowering. The first thing that stood out was his size at a listed 6-foot-5, 215-pounds, and he made throwing 78-81 mph from a lower slot look pretty easy. He also shows good feel for a 70-72 mph curveball that he drops in well for strikes. Athletic and loose, Cleavinger has committed to play for Tulane.
Cooper Crouch, RHP
I really enjoyed watching Crouch go right at hitters with a 86-88 mph fastball. The separator in his arsenal was a sharp, 76 mph curveball that he used to get three strikeouts, all looking, to retire the side. It’s a big ‘ole hammer of a curveball that he snaps off very well and has big 12-to-6 break.
Christian Oppor, LHP
Opening eyes early on Thursday was lefthander Christian Oppor, a loose, rangy and athletic 6-foot-1, 175-pound lefthander that came out firing 91-93 mph fastballs (the GRB players had him peaking at 95, but that wasn’t confirmed by any of the scouts in attendance). You can tell he’s a work in progress, as the mechanics/delivery, his 76 mph slurvy breaking ball and overall approach to pitching are somewhat raw, but the arm strength is obviously legitimate. By the second inning he was sitting at 87-88 mph. Oppor likely won’t be uncommitted for much longer.
Cal Fisher, SS
This is an exciting prospect, a 2023 grad that is playing up with the 17u GRB team. Fisher stands out in just about every way on the field. He’s listed at 5-foot-11, 185-pounds, but he looks bigger than that with an obvious, physical presence that makes it hard to believe he just finished his sophomore year in high school. And there’s enough of a bounce in his step to believe he’ll retain his loose, athletic actions as he continues to mature. At the plate he wasted no time in making an impression, turning on a ball and driving it deep to left-center field for a double. He added another double, this time to the right-center field gap, in his second game of the event with a clear talent for squaring up the baseball and driving it in the air to the alleys. Fisher is one of several high-end players from the area in the high school classes of 2022 and 2023 that is committed to Notre Dame.
Caden Capomaccio served as a piggy-back starter in GRB’s first game, a physical and athletic righthander that had no problem sustaining upper-80s velocity. He also threw a breaking ball with slurve-like action and has committed to play at Minnesota. Lefthander Luke Ross, who threw in the team’s second game on Thursday, made 83-86 mph look pretty easy, mixing in a good curveball that he has good feel for. Ross is also committed to play for the Gophers.
Estevan Moreno, SS
Moreno stood out at the Hitters Invite in late August last summer, really impacting the game in a variety of ways with his presence in the righthanded batter’s box and game-changing defensive talents. He reminded me of his strength at the point of impact and overall approach during the first at-bat I zeroed in on him, taking a pitch and sending a hard line drive single to right field. He’s listed at 6-foot-2, 190-pounds now but looks as though he’s going to add a lot more strength as he continues to fill out while drawing the usual comps to big-bodied infielders like Carlos Correa and Manny Machado. Moreno has committed to play for Notre Dame.
Owen Murphy is one of the top prospects in the area, although I didn’t see him pitch at this event as he took the mound on Saturday. He can also impact the game offensively as a very good athlete with more than enough bat speed to catch up with premium stuff. In one at-bat he hit a big, two-run bomb to left-center field, a shot that caused numerous heads to turn based off the sound it made off the bat. When I saw Murphy pitch last August he was throwing in the low-90s then and undoubtedly has taken a step forward. He’s another Notre Dame recruit. Max Baer followed Murphy’s blast with one of his own, yanking a ball over the extended fence in left field for a solo shot.
Top Tier Americans
Brady Ginaven, RHP
Top Tier had numerous impact players, both on the mound and in their starting lineup, and Ginaven was one of the first that jumped out at me. His size is what caught my attention first, listed at 6-foot-5, 215-pounds and really looking the part on the mound with a strong, durable build. He went right after hitters with a 83-85 mph fastball and a 76 mph curveball, displaying good command of both pitches. Ginaven is an Indiana State recruit.
Alex Stanwich, OF/RHP
Stanwich came into the event as one of the more obvious prospects in attendance, a clear top-level athlete who could impact the game in a variety of ways. He took numerous competitive at-bats, at first without much to show for it, but finally drove a ball deep to straightaway center field that resulted in a run-scoring sac fly. He has very good bat speed and game-changing food speed that he used well both out of the batter’s box and defensively in center field. Stanwich has committed to play for Tennessee and is highly ranked nationally among all class of 2022 prospects.
Stanwich also took the mound, which is notable as it really gave a sense for his athletic, repeatable delivery. He spotted his 86-88/89 mph fastball well and looked like a big leaguer with his approach and 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame.
Daniel Pacella, 1B/OF
You won’t miss the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Pacella on the field, and he carries that size/weight well as a can’t-miss physical stature. A left/left athlete, he routinely took competitive at-bats, like so many Top Tier hitters did, with a big ‘ole strong and massive presence. His best hit that I saw is in the video tweet as shared above, a double over the head of the center fielder that didn’t miss leaving the field by much and made a different sound off the bat. Pacella is uncommitted.
Brendan Summerhill, OF
Although not a massive physical presence, Summerhill also stood out in the lefthanded batter’s box thanks to his 6-foot-3, 190-pound build with athletic proportions. He hit a triple to the opposite field that he initially thought would clear the fence. Leading up to that at-bat Summerhill had several other competitive trips to the plate but without the results to show for it, as you had a sense he was going to get into a ball and drive it sooner rather than later. He did just that hitting the oppo triple thanks to his approach and ability to square up the baseball. Summerhill has committed to play for Kentucky.
Just before Summerhill’s triple, Creighton commit Jack Scheri hit a two-run bomb over the tall fence in left field, yet another physical, offensive-minded player in Top Tier’s deep lineup. On the mound 5-foot-11, 185-pound righthander Alex Alberico did a nice job filling up the strike zone with 83-85 mph fastballs. Alberico is uncommitted.
Jack Lausch, OF
Lausch may be turning into my favorite prospect in the area, with game-changing athleticism and five-tool upside. He’s also a talented football player and quarterback that has committed to play both sports at Notre Dame. I saw him at two different events in August of last summer, and have now seen roughly 20-30 at-bats and he rarely gets fooled. He looks better than his listed 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame with a lot of room to add more strength. In the batter’s box Lausch is at his best hitting sharp line drives back up the middle, working the gaps well and rarely selling out with a pull-only approach. He nearly took the head off the opposing pitcher with one hot shot back up the middle (see the video in the tweet above), and did turn on one ball for a double he yanked down the right field line. What is especially impressive is just how quickly he accelerates out of the batter’s box, especially given his size, no doubt a trait that serves him well on the football field with that kind of explosive athleticism. I haven’t seen him hit a home run yet during his career and look forward to that moment as that kind of power is there.
Julius Sanchez, RHP
Sanchez worked the first six innings of a game in which he and Noah Schultz piggy-backed, a game that Top Tier squeezed by with a 2-1 win. Watching Sanchez pitch, and having seen him before, the arm strength is obvious and electric with very good arm speed, leading one to believe his current 87-89/90 mph fastball velocity is going to ramp up to the low- to mid-90s in the not-so-distant future. He has a strong, athletic build and uses that size well to create some downhill trajectory. His stuff – which includes a nasty 77-78 mph curveball – plays up due to his arm speed as he generates a lot of weak, empty swings. Sanchez has committed to play in-state for Illinois.
Noah Schultz, LHP
You always have to be careful throwing out names like “Randy Johnson” because of how special and unique he was, not to mention being a Hall of Famer. But I throw the name out there because physically that is who Schultz resembles with a 6-foot-9, 215-pound build and a lower, near sidearm slot. He threw only one inning in this game against Top Tier, pounding the zone with an 88-91 mph fastball while mixing in a 73-74 mph curveball that he flipped in well for strikes. The true neutralizer, however, was his 79 mph slider, a violent two-plane breaker that appeared and disappeared before hitters knew what was coming towards them. He did a nice job sequencing between his fastball and curveball before breaking that pitch out to get a key punchout, and his size, combined with his arm slot, made him that much more difficult to hit. It was a short look but a very exciting one for a player that is clearly going to be in the mix for the early rounds in next year’s draft. Schultz has committed to Vanderbilt.
Jimmy Rolder, 3B
Rolder has immense physical strength, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound athlete that really uses that strength well to impact the game. After missing a home run he hit to left field that got out of the park in a hurry, I later saw him hit a loud double to the opposite field gap (see the video tweet above) that made a special sound off the bat at contact. In his next at-bat he hit a rocket back up the middle for a single, taking consistent, competitive at-bats with very loud results mixed in. He played both infield corners and made one really nice play at third base that stood out and proved he’s more than just an offensive brute, moving to his left to scoop a ball before making an off balance throw on the money to first base to get the runner. Rolder is an Illinois recruit.
GRB MKE 17u
Matthew Mueller, LHP
Mueller is one of those players you just like to watch play. He has some two-way talents, and can more than hold his own in the lefthanded batter’s box, but his future lies on the mound. Mueller is a natural on the mound mixing between an 83-86 mph fastball – almost every one he threw was 84-85 – and a high-spin, big-breaking upper-60s curveball. Everything about his delivery is free and easy with simple, repeatable mechanics. It’s easy to envision his stuff taking another step forward, or more, as he continues to fill out and hone his craft at Gonzaga.
Sean Episcope, RHP
Episcope was fun to watch pitch, a true bulldog that got right after hitters which allowed his stuff to play up. His fastball sat in the upper-80s (87-89) while mixing in both a sharp low-70s curveball and a changeup that recorded 81 on the radar gun, giving him a well-rounded three-pitch that he really knew how to play off one another for increased effectiveness. His competitiveness made him that much more difficult with a strong-bodied 6-foot, 195-pound stature. He is currently uncommitted.
I saw Jayden Lobliner take numerous competitive at-bats, none more impressive than when he belted a double that kept carrying over the head of the center fielder. A Kansas State recruit, Lobliner has a very strong arm behind the plate and consistently makes strong, accurate throws in between innings. He’s not overly big at 5-foot-9, 180-pounds, but his hard-nosed approach allows him to play much bigger than his listed size. He’s a Kansas State recruit.
Pro Player Canes
Tyler Deleskiewicz, RHP
Deleskiewicz created a buzz behind the backstop when he took the mound, a large and athletic 6-foot-5, 210-pound well-proportioned righthander who might just be scratching the surface of his future potential. He throws from a lower slot, creating difficult angles, and also did a good job to manipulate the shape of his breaking ball between a low- to mid-70s curveball and an upper-70s slider. His fastball jumped in on the hands of opposing hitters at 88-91 mph, making him that much more difficult to hit, although the command profile will need to improve for him to enjoy increased, more consistent success. Deleskiewicz is uncommitted.