Farragut High School’s baseball team has played in numerous national tournaments.
The Admirals have won nine state championships, ranking second all-time in Tennessee.
Yet, plenty will be new when Farragut opens play in the USA Baseball National High School Invitational, which begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday in Cary, N.C.
“This tournament is a notch up from anything we’ve ever done,” Farragut coach Matt Buckner said on Monday. “This is a lot different. The competition is really high; a lot of big-time prospects. I think one guy told me that every single Major League Baseball team was there last year, and every single scouting director was there.
“You don’t get that in one spot every day.”
The talent pool this year includes more than 65 Division I commitments, and numerous MLB draft prospects. It’s something Farragut — which has three players committed to high-major programs: Duncan Pence (Tennessee), Chase Fullington (North Carolina) and Patrick Raby (Vanderbilt) — will get a taste of early when it takes on College Park High (Pleasant Hill, Calif.) on Wednesday at 1 p.m. The game will be streamed live on MLB.com.
Joe DeMers, a Washington commit, is the headliner for College Park. The top left-handed pitching prospect has an arsenal of off-speed pitches, and can run his fastball into the mid-90s. He’s one of seven Division I commits for the Falcons, who recently dropped from first to seventh in Baseball America’s national high school rankings.
The field includes six other nationally ranked teams, including No.1 Mosley High (Lynn Haven, Fla.). Several others, including Farragut, have been ranked at some point this season. The Admirals, who are expected to start Raby opposite DeMers, were ranked 13th in the preseason, before dropping out.
“It is about the experience and competing, but we ain’t going there to lose,” Buckner said. “We’re going to try to win, obviously. I don’t know how we stack up with those teams, but I feel like we’ll compete. I haven’t known many Farragut teams not to compete.”
Three criteria were used in selecting teams this season, including program history, overall depth and talent and draftable prospects. The tournament also leaned towards teams that hadn’t previously played in the event.
“Typically you see some of the top prospects are on some of the best teams in the country, for obvious reasons,” said tournament director Mark Dvoroznak, adding that representatives from all 30 MLB teams are expected to attend again this year. “You’re going to play four games in four days, and we need teams that are going to come in and compete on that four-day period.
“We feel it’s the premier event on the high school calendar. We’re excited about the class in 2015. It’s some of the most depth in the four years we’ve done the event.”
Short hops: San Clemente left-handed pitcher Kolby Allard is the tournament’s top pitching prospect, and listed No. 8 in Baseball America’s 2015 MLB draft rankings. Allard’s fastball ranges from 90 to 92 miles per hour over extended innings, though he’s been clocked as high as 96. … Farragut’s opening-round game is one of two being streamed live by MLB.com on Wednesday, and one of seven overall, including Saturday’s championship.
National High School Invitational Tournament Schedule
At National Training Complex, Cary, N.C.
Round of 16
JSerra (Calif.) vs. Mosley (Fla.), 10 a.m.
Horizone (Ariz.) vs. Loyalsock (Pa.), 11 a.m.
College Park (Calif.), vs. Farragut, 1 p.m.
Huntingdon Beach (Calif.) vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), 1:30 p.m.
Puyallup (Wash.) vs. Leesville Road (N.C.), 2 p.m.
Desoto Central (Miss.) vs. Whitewater (Ga.), 3:15 p.m.
San Clemente (Calif.) vs. Lambert (Ga.), 3:45 p.m.
Trinity Prep (Fla.) vs. College Station (Texas), 9:45 a.m.
Note: Due to the rules and regulations of multiple state high school associations that govern the dates and times for when teams are permitted to compete, after the round of 16, the daily schedule cannot be communicated until the end of play on the previous day. Specifically, GA teams may not compete during regular school hours and Oklahoma. and Texas teams may not play on Wednesdays. At the request of the coaches participating in the event, the consolation matchups will be scheduled to ensure that teams from the same state do not match up.
Chris Thomas covers high school sports. Follow him at twitter.com/prepxtra.