The first full day of competition at the 2011 Area Code Games was highlighted by pitching well over 90 mph on the radar gun and hitting that showed that even the smaller guys can have pop in their bat. There was even some stellar defense sprinkled in as Day 2's "Jose Bautista 'Beastmode' Award" theme went to honoring players who can take over a game, be it with the big or small plays.
Game #3: Nationals vs. Athletics
*** Some of the individual pitching performances were so dominant in the first game Saturday at the Area Code Baseball Games that New Balance recognized two hurlers as winners of the "Jose Bautista 'Beastmode' Award" for players taking over the game.
--- The first Co-MVP was 6-foot-2, 180-pound righthander Freddy Avis from Menlo School (Atherton, Calif.), who helped the Oakland A's blank the Washington Nationals 8-0.
Avis, who verbally committed to Stanford shortly after the A's tryout July 6, pitched two innings and allowed only on hit while striking out three of the six batters he faced.
"I felt great out there," he said. "I was loose with a little bit of butterflies, but that's to be expected in an event like this. I wanted to concentrate on throwing strikes because in these things you never want to throw balls."
"Also, it was important for me to mix my speeds because in a showcase like this guys can hit the fastball," he stated.
Avis topped out at 94 mph and had a half-dozen pitches over 90 on the radar gun. He went 10-1 with a 2.39 ERA and hit .459 as a junior to earn CalHiSports.com 1st team All-State Underclass honors.
--- Although the Nationals' bats were quiet, co-MVP Brady Bramlett did his part to keep opponents off the bases. In the fourth inning he struck out two of the three he faced and hit 92 mph on the gun.
"I felt good coming out of the pen," said the 6-foot-4, 220-pound righthander from Arlington (Bartlett, Tenn.).
"I felt I could put any pitch where it needed to be," Bramlett added. "I got the first strikeout on a slider and the second on a curve. I was anxious, as anybody would be, but felt I did as well as I could today. It was an unbelievable atmosphere, it had the feel of being in a pro game."
Bramlett, who went 11-0 his junior season with a 1.45 ERA and earned 1st team all-state honors, is committed to Ole Miss. His talents aren't limited to the diamond, however; he was also a first chair tenor in the All-Southwest choir.
One other similarity between the two strikeout artists is their skills in the classroom: Bramlett carries a 4.3 GPA and 27 ACT while Avis has a 3.8 GPA and scored 2060 on the SAT.
Game #4: Brewers vs. Yankees
*** New Balance honored Tanner Rahier of the Milwaukee Brewers as the winner of the "Jose Bautista 'Beastmode' Award" for taking over the game in his team's 4-2 win over the New York Yankees Saturday afternoon at the Area Code Baseball Games.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound shortstop prospect from Indian Wells, Calif., shined offensively and defensively in the win.
In the top of the second inning, Rahier made the defensive play of the game and shut down a potentially big scoring inning for the Yankees when he turned a double play by tagging out a runner at second on a steal attempt and then fired to the plate to nail a runner breaking for home.
Offensively, he doubled and also pinch ran and scored a run.
Interestingly, Rahier attends Palm Desert (Palm Desert, Calif.) but doesn't play for the Div. IV team. Instead he's played the last two springs in the ABCL Wood League where he gets to play 50 to 70 games against top level competition.
He believes playing against top talent in the spring has prepared him for facing the best this summer.
"The double play was fun," he explained. "You get used to doing it so much you don't think about it (playing in so many spring games). The double I sat back looking for a pitch to hit and got a fastball. It's great playing here. You get to meet cool people, play top competition this week and see how you do."
Game #5: Reds vs Rangers (9-innings)
*** The first nine-inning contest of the 2011 Area Code Baseball Games was a showcase for the extra base power of Cincinnati Reds' shortsop Alex Bregman, who was rewarded by New Balance as the "Jose Bautista 'Beastmode' Award" winner in the day's third game.
Bregman, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior from Albuquerque Academy (Albuquerque, N.M.), cracked a double and triple in his three at-bats and plated two runs although his Reds' squad fell 6-4 to the Rangers.
"I felt great today," he said of his two hits. "I just tried to relax and get the jitters out from the first day. The triple, out of the box I knew I'd get to third."
The LSU-bound infielder/catcher's powerful bat is no surprise as he hit .678 with 19 home runs last spring for a team that was runner-up in its division of the New Mexico state playoffs. Bregman, who also was an ESPNHS player of the Week during the season, also had 23 steals on his way to earning all-state honors.
So where does he get his power despite not being huge in stature?
"I think my strengths are my hands, form and eyes," he said, explaining that he's helped by having 20/13 eyesight. "I like to stay linear on my swing, too."
His physical tools are complemented by a quick mind—in the seventh grade Bregman was the state champion in chess—but all that he's thinking about right now is improving his game.
"I want to have fun this week, get better, be coachable, enjoy the beautiful weather and play well against the good competition," he said. "So far so good."
Game #6: Royals vs White Sox
*** New Balance awarded the final "Jose Bautista 'Beastmode' Award" of Saturday's action at the Area Code Games to shortstop Ryne Shelton of the Kansas City Royals, who showed you don't necessarily have to do the big things to help a team win.
In a 2-0 shutout over the Chicago White Sox, Shelton went 0-for-2 but had a hand in both runs, knocking in the first one on a sacrifice fly and stealing a base to score the second run after reaching on an error.
"I'm not used to seeing velocity like this," he said, "so I'm working on getting my timing down, but even though I didn't get a hit I'm proud to have been part of both runs."
The 6-foot, 185-pound senior from Kentlake (Kent, Wash.) also made some nice plays in the outfield and appreciated being name the New Balance MVP in the lowest scoring game of the first two days.
"It feels great to be honored especially since I love playing in front of a lot of people."
Shelton hit .435 as a junior and also was effective on the mound, striking out 67 batters and compiling a 1.07 ERA. He's uncommitted as far as selecting a college and is considering San Diego State, Arkansas, Arizona and Oregon State.