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FHSI "Classic" Tournament Preview

For the 8th consecutive year, the Florida League High School Invitational will offer some of the best high school baseball matchups in the entire country. This year will mark the first time that the FHSI has extended into three separate weeks: March 16-20, March 23-27 and March 30-April 2. With 42 total teams competing over three weeks, this will set the record for largest FHSI in its eight year history.

Today, we will take a look at the first week of the tournament, known as “The Classic”. Week 1 will be a 16-team bracket style tournament that guarantees four games for each school. This year’s pool of teams feature nationally ranked squads, future first round draft picks and teams from Oklahoma, Tennessee and Florida.

Fans can expect scouts to swarm Sanford Memorial Stadium during The Classic, as it features the consensus #1 player in the country, Brendan Rodgers of Lake Mary High School. Rodgers is a 6’2 shortstop who has been on the radar of pro scouts since he was in 9th grade. Multiple scouts and baseball websites have Rodgers as the favorite to be the #1 overall selection in the 2015 MLB draft, based on his true five-tool talent.

The Classic is not just a one man show, however. There will be many other highly touted prospects taking the field. American Heritage features two elite players in IF Jonathan India and LHP Hunter Bowling, both of whom are committed to play at the University of Florida. Last year’s runner-up, Barron Collier, boasts four players who will be playing D-1 ball. Bowden Francis from Chiles is a top 100 national pitcher. Local power Lake Brantley brings another talented team to the FHSI, with 8 players committed to play college baseball, including Harrison Ray, a Vanderbilt signee. Rodgers’ Lake Mary teammate, Todd Peterson, is a top 20 national junior and is signed to play at LSU. The Rams also feature Braden Rollins and Jacob Corso, who will both be attending D-1 powers Rice and UCF, respectively. Triston McKenzie of Royal Palm Beach is another potential first round pick. The 6’5 RHP has committed to Vanderbilt. Dwyer High School boasts a roster full of talent, including Top 20 LHP Tom Szapucki and 2017 Top 20 RHP Tyler Ahearn.

The Classic will begin play at Sanford Memorial Stadium at 9 am on Monday, March 16th. For a full bracket schedule, please click here.

Team Previews:

American Heritage Stallions Head coach Carm Mazza and the Stallions will return for their fourth consecutive FHSI tournament.

This senior laden team has always been a tough competitor, and will look to bring home

thri first championship in 2015. Leading the way is SS Jonathan India, a University of Florida

commit and potential MLB draft prospect. Perfect Game USA has India ranked as a Top 50

national player for the 2015 class, and in the Top 10 for the state of Florida. Joining him in

Gainesville will be teammate Hunter Bowling, a 6’8 LHP who is a Top 100 national player.

Coach Mazza believes that the team’s strong pitching and team defense will help them compete

for a district title in 2015.

Barron Collier Cougars The Cougars are back for their 2nd FHSI tournament after reaching the championship game of the 2014 edition. They return many of their starters from last year’s team, that ended with a 21-5 record. Says coach Charlie Maurer, “All of the players are finally older now. We aren’t just the young pups that were always talented. We are set up for a deep run this year with our offense and pitching. I think what separates us from the rest is our team speed and the grit in which we play.” The team is led by junior C Marc Coffers, who is a Top 50 prospect in Florida for 2016 and is committed to play at South Carolina in 2017. Four other players will be playing D-1 baseball at the next level as well: seniors Tyler Dietrich (USF), Enrique Ferrer (Pitt) and Jesse Ferreira (FAU), and junior John D’Amelio (Navy)

Chiles Timberwolves Head coach Dick Steed and the Chiles Timberwolves will make their first appearance at the FHSI. Coach Steed brings more than 500 career wins to the table, and a talented yougn team that has gone to two straight State Final Fours. “We believe this team has a chance to compete for a District Championship and hopefully make the playoffs. It’ll take a winning chemistry to achieve that,”he said. The T’Wolves are led by a couple of senior RHPs in Bowden Francis and Stephen Jones. Francis stands 6’6 and is a Top 100 national pitcher, while Jones will take his talents to

Birmingham, AL when he suits up for Samford next year.

Edmond Santa Fe Wolves For the 2nd consecutive year, Ryan Phillips and the Wolves of Edmond Santa Fe will make the trip to Central Florida. They enjoyed some success last year, winning two games, and they will look to bring home a FHSI championship in 2015. There is plenty of talent across the diamond for this veteran team. The offense is led by senior KJ Orr, who is ranked as a top 10 overall prospect in Oklahoma and Jake Martin, a top 5 outfielder from the Sooner state. Pitching depth is a strength for this team with senior Ryan Huber and Orr as the top arms on the team.

Gibbs Eagles The Gibbs Eagles will make their return to the FHSI for the first time since 2012. Traveling from just outside of Knoxville, TN, Gibbs is one of two teams in “The Classic” from out of state. Head coach Geff Davis has high expectations for his team as the Eagles return 8 of 10 top hitters and 5 of 6 top pitchers from their 2014 squad that won 20 games. Headlining the team are All-District performers Trey Carpenter, Peyton Sawyer and Andrew Willis. Gibbs moved up to the AAA classification last year, and expects to make another run in the state tournament.

Lake Brantley Patriots Eric Entrekin’s Patriots will take part in their fourth consecutive FHSI. They will look to bring home their 2nd FHSI championship, a feat they accomplished in 2013 en route to the Florida 8A state title. Though they lost a handful of players to the draft and D-1 programs last year, Brantley will bring a very strong pitching staff and young talent on offense to the table. The trio of Jr. Mike Ruff, Sr. Kyle Cross and Sr. Stephen Wells anchor one of the best pitching rotations in the entire country. On offense, junior SS Harrison Ray has been flying up the prospect ranks, and currently stands as a Top 50 national prospect in 2016. He will be attending Vanderbilt in 2017.

Lake Mary Rams The legendary Ron Tuttle is bringing his Rams back to the FHSI for the 2nd consecutive year. Lake Mary comes into the tournament loaded with some of the best indivcidual talent in the country. Senior SS Brendan Rodgers is the headliner, projected by many to be the #1 overall draft pick in the MLB draft in June. The Rams aren’t a one man show however. Junior Todd Peterson has caught the eye of scouts in the past year, and is a Top 20 Nationalprospect for 2016. Look for two other seniors to help Lake Mary compete; RHP Braden Rollins is headed to D1 power Rice University, while 1B Jacob Corso plans to attend nearby UCF.

Palm Beach Central Broncos Scott Benedict returns his Broncos to the FHSI for the 3rd time in four years. They finished in 2nd place last year, and look to bring home the trophy in 2015. They will do so with almost a completely new team as they return only two starters from last year. The strength of this team is on the mound, led by Kyle Giragos and Erik Strandberg. Offensively, Cameron Lauer is a bat to watch as the young infielder is one of the top third basemen in the state for the 2017 class.

Palm Beach Gardens Gators The Palm Beach Gardens Gators return to the FHSI for the fourth consecutive year in 2015. Coach Joe Russo has enjoyed success at the tournament, winning in 2012 and going 4-0 in 2014. After losing All-Americans JJ Schwarz (Florida) and Pavin Smith (Virginia), the Gators will have a tough test ahead of them as they pursue their third straight district title. However, Coach Russo is pleased with the depth of his team, and thinks they will compete. Senior RHPs Austin Wilson and Will Guay anchor the pitching staff for the Gators, while the Sanicky brothers are the leaders on offense.

Ponte Vedra Sharks Coach Tom Stanton will enter his Sharks into the FHSI for the first time. He has brought instant success to the school, which only opened in 2008. The Sharks were the 2013 5A State Champions, and 2012 runner up. He believes that his roster of upperclassmen will have Ponte Vedra mkaing another deep run in the postseason. Junior 3B Jack Layrisson leads the way on offense as a Top 100 Florida prospect. On the mound, Ponte Vedra is deep, witha dozen pitchers able to take the bump.

Royal Palm Beach Wildcats Kason Gabbard enters his first season as skipper for the Royal Palm Beach Wildcats. It will be the second straight FHSI for the young Cats, who lost six seniors form last year’s squad. The team is highlighted by senior RHP Triston McKenzie, a Vanderbilt signee who has flown up the prospect ranks in the past year. Baseball America named him a 3rd team All-American for 2015 and a Top 20 National prospect for the 2015 class. Fellow senior Brandon Hernandez will lead the way on offense after leading the team in hitting during the 2014 FHSI. Sean Malynn, a senior OF, will use his blazing speed to help out on offense as well.

Seminole Seminoles The Fighting Seminoles will be playing in their 5th FHSI, conveniently located just minutes

from their home field in Sanford. New Head Coach Derek Wolfe brings more than 350

career victories to the storied program that has produced MLB stars Tim Raines and David

Eckstein. Keep an eye on catcher Zach Wattman and SS Scott Fickas at the plate, and RHPs

Alec Diemer and Dylan Stallings on the bump.

Tampa Prep Terrapins From Coach AJ Hendrix, who returns with his Terrapins for the fourth consecutive FHSI:

“Despite graduating 7 seniors from the class of 2014, the Terrapins have a lot of returning talent and look to return to the State Tournament in 2015. The team will once again be built around quality pitching, superb defense,and strong fundamental play. Offensively the team has a good mix of speed, and power and an aggressiveness on the base paths to keep the pressure on opposing defenses.” Keep an eye on junior Luis Medina, a Top 100 Florida recruit.

Trinity Prep Saints The Saints return for their 3rd consecutive FHSI. New coach Trevor Berryhill has high hopes for his team this season:“The 2015 Saints baseball team looks to build off of last year’s success. The team returns 5 starters off of last year’s regional finalist team. The team also returns the majority of the pitching staff from last year. The schedule is very difficult and should help prepare the team for the end of the season as they look to repeat as District Champs and make another deep run in the playoffs. Participating in the FCSL Invitational and the National HS Invitational in Cary, NC will certainly allow them to play vs some of the top competition in the state and country.”

University Christian Christians Head Coach Daryl Bizier is bringing his squad back for the 2nd consecutive FHSI. Though they went 1-3 last year, they were only outscored by one total run, 15-14. The small roster is packed with athletes who excel at multiple positions. Chris Gau, a Jacksonville U signee, leads the team on offense and on the mound. He was named to the FHSI All-Tournament team in 2014 after hitting .455 at the plate and striking out 12 batters in his complete game start. Other players to watch are RHP Jeremy Peel and knuckleballer Dylan Pate.

William T. Dwyer Panthers The Florida League welcomes head coach Frank Torre and the Dwyer Panthers to their first FHSI tournament. The Panthers will look to build on their 2014 Regional Final finish, and contend for a state title in 2015. Coach Torre thinks that his pitching depth will certainly help them along the way. The staff is headlined by senior LHP Tom Szapucki, a University of Florida commit who is ranked as a Top 10 prospect in the state of Florida. He is joined by fellow senior Hunter Whitman, who is heading to North Florida and sophomore standout Tyler Ahearn, who has already committed to Florida State and is a Top 20 National recruit for the 2017 class.

For the 8th consecutive year, the Florida League High School Invitational will offer some of the best high school baseball matchups in the entire country. This year will mark the first time that the FHSI has extended into three separate weeks: March 16-20, March 23-27 and March 30-April 2. With 42 total teams competing over three weeks, this will set the record for largest FHSI in its eight year history.


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