By: Austin Alexander-July 30, 2008
Eight of South Carolina’s elite American Legion teams gathered at Legion Field on Wednesday for Day 1 of the 2008 State Tournament. Lead changes and long balls were the theme of the day…but the two top stories from the opener was one player arriving at the ballpark during his game to ignite a victory and the host team rallying from a nine run deficit in the nightcap. Stay tuned to Diamond Prospects as we give you a snapshot from the four contests and provide you prospect info as well…
Game 1: Irmo 14 Lake City 6
Tyler Martin’s grand slam broke open an early slugfest that saw Gabe Grammer (left), Derek Moses and Thomas McLeod pitch in offensively.
WP-Cameron Baker, LP-Christopher Mishoe, HR- Christopher Mishoe (LC), Gabe Grammer (I), Tyler Martin (I).
Game 2: Goose Creek 7 Richland 5
Aaron Preston arrived late following summer classes and proceeded to pace Goose Creek with three loud doubles while Ryan Hines silenced Richland bats.
WP-Ryan Hines, LP-Joseph Osteen, HR-Chris Daniels (R), Mo Holler (R).
Game 3: Sumter 7 Spartanburg 4
The P-15’s found themselves in an early hole but Samuel Key’s three-run bomb tied the affair and Tony Micklon’s solo job unknotted the affair. Tyler Christman’s gritty, 8+ inning performance kept Post 28 in check for a Sumter win in the opener.
WP-Tyler Christman, LP-Sloan Gilliam, SV-Matt Price, HR-Samuel Key (Sumter), Tony Micklon (Sumter), Ross Hanna (Sptg), Brian Poteat (Sptg).
Game 4: Florence 13 Greenwood 11
Once down by nine runs, Florence trailed 11-4 headed into the home half of the 7th before erupting for nine scores, sparked by Tyler Boyd’s bases-clearing double.
WP-Thomas Long, LP-Christian Brown, SV-Patrick Mincey (right), HR: Spencer Jordan (F), Keith Branco (F), Drew Willingham (G).
Prospect Info: Irmo
Gabe Grammer-2008, Irmo HS, INF, Presbyterian signee: Grammer’s note-worthy 2008 continued when he dropped his 16th bomb of the year early in Wednesday’s opening game. Following a strong campaign in the spring, the right-handed hitter’s assault on South Carolina pitchers continues as he has vaulted his stock into a distinct "pro-follow" status in the past six months. Formerly a hard groundball/line-drive hitter with doubles pop to the opposite gap, Grammer has discovered the art of centering baseballs with backspin and has turned into a power threat. Playing shortstop for this legion team, he is a plus defender at the hot corner with plenty of arm strength to remain on the left side of the infield.
Derek Moses-2008, Dutch Fork HS, C, Erskine signee: The dirtiest uniform following Wednesday’s games also swung one of the days most potent bats. Moses’ (left) approach at the plate was gap-to-gap, but because he was pitched on the outer third, Moses made good use of the left-centerfield jet-stream at Legion Field. Moses, a left-handed hitter, spoiled two quality pitcher’s pitches to the opposite gap. Moses may want extreme success as bad as any other player in the graduated class.
Thomas McLeod-2007, Chapin HS, LHP/OF: McLeod showcased a flat, sweeping swing that stayed in the zone while raking line drives through the right-side but appeared a tad uncomfortable tracking flyballs.
Cameron Baker-2008, Chapin HS, RHP: Baker shook off a rough start out of the gate, then settled in with a low-80’s fastball to send the Irmo club into the winner’s bracket.
Notables: Tyler Martin (2009, Dutch Fork HS, OF/RHP), Chad Balderman (2009, Dutch Fork HS, RHP), Josh Miller (2009, Chapin HS, INF).
Prospect Info: Lake City
Shon Carson-2011, Lake City HS, OF: The young phenom put his talents on display Wednesday. The kid can absolutely float around the bases, whether it be on a bunt (3.88), stealing bases with ease or motoring in from second base on a single. His speed is game-altering. Carson (left) wastes no time at the plate getting to work, he saw a grand total of three pitches in his first three plate appearances, all base hits. Carson patrolled centerfield on Wednesday and has the wheels to track down balls, though more live reads out there will improve his instincts and routes to the ball. Carson is the top player the Class of 2011 and is beginning to attract the eyes of professional scouts.
Notables: Reggie Weatherford (2009, Lake City HS, INF), Christopher Mishoe (2007, Carolina Academy, RHP), Ryan Fedkenhauer (2008, Lake City HS, RHP).
Prospect Info: Goose Creek
Aaron Preston-2008, Stratford HS, OF, Presbyterian signee: Preston rolled into Legion Field during the third inning of Goose Creek’s Round 1 game. He’d taken summer school classes earlier in the day, raced to Florence, got dressed, loosened his arm and was immediately inserted into the line-up. And the timing could not have been better. Preston (right) promptly doubled down the line and twice to left-center, he also started a double play of a fly ball to his position in center. Preston has a very sturdy frame, with a compact and flat stroke. The ball explodes off of his bat in a different manner than most high school players and just hits a higher gear as it approaches the outfield. Preston is a solid runner with an above average arm and should slot nicely as an offensive rightfielder at PC. Good player with the potential to play professionally one day.
Kenny Bryant-2008, Goose Creek HS, OF, Presbyterian signee: Bryant’s (left) swing is something you may see in a minor league baseball game with an offensive approach that some people could use the expression that he resembles a "professional hitter". His barrel stays through the flight of the pitch and his fly balls have "carry". Bryant is a big, strong presence in the left-handed batters box with plenty of upside to have success versus Division I pitching next spring.
Brent Perry-2008, Goose Creek HS, INF/RHP, USC Sumter signee: Perry is a very good athlete that appears more than serviceable at three infield positions and may be just as valuable on the bump. Perry is a sure-handed glove man with plenty of arm strength. He also plays hard and runs well too. Perry projects as a contributor for the Fire Ants and as player that will command interest coming out of the junior college.
Notables: Josh Kubisz (2008, Goose Creek HS, C, Newberry signee), Damon Ardis (2008, Stratford HS, INF, Citadel signee).
Prospect Info: Richland
Will Freeman-2008, AC Flora HS, RHP/OF, Presbyterian signee: The long, lean right-hander rolled smoothly out of the gate and used a nice mixture of three pitches in the process. Freeman (right) worked between 83-85, topping out at 86. He complemented it with good feel for a change-up (73-74) and a breaking ball that he could throw for strikes. Freeman enjoyed a good spring as a hitter and outfielder, he may continue pulling double-duty for the Blue Hose.
Chandler Knox-2010, Dreher HS, RHP: Knox entered the game late on the mound for Richland but quickly grabbed some attention with a fastball at 83-84 and a curveball that sat at 67-70. By virtue of this viewing, Knox certainly becomes a player to follow this fall and next spring.
Notables: Robert Gibbes (2008, AC Flora HS, OF).
Prospect Info: Sumter
Tyler Christman-2007, USC Sumter, RHP: Christman was beginning to earn the label that Mike Hampton has, but all signs are that he is now healthy, which is a good sign for the P-15’s and USC Sumter. Christman is a name that coaches and scouts know but have rarely seen him pitch, on Wednesday he got some visibility and this is what they saw: He pitched at 85-86, and touched an 87 with a solid bender at 70-71. Christman was roughed up early on but really showed some mettle as he just kept hanging around and making pitches into the ninth inning. In the heat and with a mounting pitch count, Christman battled his tail off before handing the ball over to Matt Price with a man on base in the ninth inning. Christman has been seen into the 90-91 range, on this day he showcased his will to win.
Matt Price-2008, Sumter HS, RHP/3B, USC signee: Not a lot to say that has not been stated about Price (left) already except that he could be the biggest oversight of the June Draft. Some question exists over how much better he is going to get but I’d argue that the "now" that Price brings to the table is awfully good. He warmed up at 90-91 and after moving straight from third base to the rubber. His command was not as pinpoint as usual but certainly good enough. He recorded a punchout and induced a game-ending double play to end the mini-jam. Price is a mitt-hitter with stuff, late movement and deception from multiple slots…those are the ingredients for outs at any level beyond high school.
Bruce Caldwell-2011, Sumter HS, SS: Two years ago it was Allen Caldwell that made a play in the Legion State Tourney which led to a collective ‘wow’ among scouts in attendance when he made a catch in rightfield and threw a strike to third base to hold a runner at second. On Wednesday, it was the younger Caldwell, Bruce (right), that made the electrifying play. Playing shortstop, Caldwell tracked a bounding ball to his right and deep into the hole. With a solid runner going down the line, he backhanded the ball about waist high, planted his back foot and fired a strong throw across the diamond to nab the runner by an eyelash. It will only go down in the scorebook as a ‘6-3′ but to those evaluators in attendance, it’s one of those plays you sit there all day long and wait for…and the real good ones will always deliver something to leave you with an image to remember. And Caldwell is going to be a good one for sure. His older brother is now a farmhand in the Kansas City organization but this Caldwell may be right on his heels. The rising sophomore can handle the bat and glove, the only tool still in question is his speed. From the left-side, he turned in times ranging from 4.5 to 4.6, Caldwell’s wheels may likely determine where he is playing baseball three years from now.
Samuel Key-2009, Wilson Hall, UTL: On this day, Key held his own as one of the top hitters in the opening day of the tournament. His hard single and three-run bomb grabbed the eye right off the bat, it appears that his best tool may be that right-handed stick. Wednesday Key revealed himself as a player to follow.
Notables: Travis Witherspoon (2007, Spartanburg Methodist, OF), Quentrell Nelson (2008, Lakewood HS, OF, USC Sumter signee), Tony Micklon (2008, Sumter HS, C, Presbyterian signee).
Prospect Info: Spartanburg
Sloan Gilliam-2008, Dorman HS, INF: On Wednesday, Gilliam (left) was on the mound for Post 28 but it will be his bat that separates him from others when he lands at SMC. Arguably the top right-handed hitter in the Class of 2008, Gilliam had a relatively quiet day at the plate on Day 1 but he is a name that college coaches will need to tuck away when his JUCO eligibility begins to expire.
Alex Dozier-2007, Dorman HS, OF: Dozier (right) had a good day at the dish and on the bases. It should be noted that he was on the baseball team at the College of Charleston back in the fall and is presently searching for a school to play at. Dozier has legit speed and may be a fit atop the lineup of a solid program this fall or spring.
Ross Hanna-2007, Dorman HS, 1B, Spartanburg Methodist: Hanna (left) is an agile big fella with plenty of thunder in his barrel. Following a good freshman campaign at Erskine, Hanna will take his power to SMC this year and likely swat his share of balls into the woods in 2009 as well. Four-year schools looking for a right-handed, middle-of-the-order hitter should check on Hanna during his sophomore season.
Notables: Brian Poteat (2009, Spartanburg HS, OF).
Prospect Info: Florence
Patrick Mincey-2007, Spartanburg Methodist, RHP: Mincey was the Region X’s Pitcher of the Year by DP and, after a quick moment to acquaint himself to the mound from third base, he showed why. Mincey came on to nail down the Florence win and earned the save with a mid-80’s sinking fastball and a sweeping slurve. He K’d the last two hitters of the game to preserve the comeback win for Florence. Mincey needed about a 10-pitch grace period to get going but he was fortunately able to have his mistakes in the middle of the zone to be fouled off. Once he decided the game needed to end, it was over!
Robert Skinner-2007, Lander, INF: Skinner (right) had several coaches in attendance shaking their head on Wednesday as to how they could have missed on him out of high school. Skinner’s baseball instincts and savvy, combined with some ability too, are actually something he has exhibited from DP’s first viewing of him in 2006. Good player with a nose for being in the right place at the right time, almost all of the time.
Tyler Boyd-2008, Lamar HS, UTL, Francis Marion signee: Boyd is an infielder by trade but found himself in left on Wednesday. His versatility adds to his value but his ability to hit is what has the Patriots excited about Boyd’s arrival this fall. Boyd is a strong kid with a knack for barreling balls, even against quality arms.
Notables: Spencer Jordan (2008, South Florence HS, INF/RHP, Florence-Darlington Tech signee), John Taylor (2007, Florence-Darlington Tech, UTL/RHP), Brandon Hyman (2008, South Florence HS, OF), Keith Branco (2008, Wilson HS, INF).
Prospect Info: Greenwood
Christian Powell-2009, Greenwood HS, RHP: Powell provided a number of other players an opportunity to be seen on Wednesday as he attracted a handsome crowd of colleges coaches and a handful of pro guys for his start. Possibly to his detriment, Greenwood scored six runs in the top of the 1st before Powell ever took the mound. It took him a little time to settle in, you could argue that he never did get comfortable. Powell has been shooting bolts up to 91 this summer but on this night he sat between 85-87, punching a little better than that from time to time. The curveball sat at 74 and was inconsistent, but the change-up featured plenty of promise at 76-77. So here’s the skinny on Powell in this outing…his command wavered, especially in the stretch, and the breaking ball only showed brief flashes of an out-pitch, but he was forced to throw a ton of off-speed pitches versus working off of the heater and complementing it with a very good change-piece. Powell is highly-projectable because he has proven to have good arm strength, his frame has plenty of room to grow (picture a wiry Jordan Lyles), his delivery lacks effort (similar to Lyles), Powell works downhill (like Lyles) and he is a duel sport guy (Greenwood QB) pulling enormous physical demands at this point in the summer (not unlike Lyles either). His arm angle lends itself to a straight fastball but should also allow him to improve his curveball. If not, an arm slot drop may be in his future, then the development of a slider/cutter. Powell remains unsigned and his last outing before football cranks up will likely be in the Palmetto Games. He has some offers already on the table, and will eventually make a college decision. But don’t be shocked if Powell gets plenty of interest next spring from scouts trying to gauge which round to select him in.
Brian Bender-2007, Lander, OF: This kid went from being a new player in our region to a quality player as he has accumulated AB’s and played the game with more regularity. Bender (left) moved to Hillcrest HS, got injured and basically surfaced as an un-signed senior in 2007. From then until now, Bender has become a good lead-off hitter that sees his shares of pitches, can draw walks and understands his role in the offense, not to mention he has become a better hitter.
Michael White-2007, Greenwood HS, OF: White’s offensive prowess, pop and arm strength from rightfield on Wednesday should be noted in this portion of the prospect info.
Notables: Drew Willingham (2008, Greenwood HS, 3B, Erskine signee), Tyler Jones (2009, McCormick HS, LHP), Christian Brown (2008, Ninety-Six HS, OF, Lander signee), Hunter Dowis (2008, Emerald HS, INF, Lander signee).