For the twelfth consecutive year, the Florida Collegiate Summer League will host dozens of high school baseball teams at Sanford Memorial Stadium during the annual High School Invitational tournament. This year, there will be three weeks of play … “The Showcase”, which runs March 11-15; “The Classic”, which runs from March 18-22; and “The Challenge”, which runs from March 25-29.
The initial tournament was held in 2008 with Orangewood Christian School acting as a host. Since then, the event has grown into one of the premier amateur baseball events in the southeast, with more than 130 teams from 13 states taking part. Part of the draw is playing at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, which has seen thousands of games, from little league to MLB spring training, over the past 70 years. Another factor for the success is the talent coming through the dugouts. Dozens of players have been drafted in the same year that they played in the FHSI. A total of fifteen players have been selected in the first round, including Montverde Academy’s Francisco Lindor (2011) and Lake Mary’s Brendan Rodgers (2015). In addition, seven players who have played in the FHSI have reached the big leagues … Lindor, Javier Baez, Greg Bird, Albert Almora, Carson Fulmer, Tomas Nido, and Touki Touissaint.
The first week of play, named “The Showcase”, will run from March 11-15 and feature eight teams. Five of them are Florida schools, while three will travel in from other states. In addition to the FHSI teams, the Florida League’s Spring Training event will also bring teams to the stadium. In all, baseball fans can get their fix all week long, with a minimum of four games being played every day.
Let’s meet the teams for The Showcase.
Barron Collier Cougars Naples, FL - 9A 2018 Record: 19-13
Head Coach Charlie Maurer returns the Barron Collier Cougars for their 5th consecutive FHSI tournament. The Cougars are one of the state’s premier teams at the 6A level, taking home three straight district titles, and making two appearances in the state Final Four in the past three years. Many of the starters from last year’s squad will return for their senior season, including six who have signed to play at the next level. On the mound, the righty trio of Aidan Bennett, Sean Means, and Thomas Balboni will anchor a deep staff. Johnny Long will operate behind the plate, while Dylan Doria and Matt Lord set the table for the offense.
Calvary Christian Eagles Ft. Lauderdale, FL - 4A 2018 Record - 17-15
Calvary Christian is making their FHSI debut in 2019, though head coach Alan Kunkel is no stranger to the event. He helped start the FHSI way back in 2008 as the head coach at Orangewood Christian. His Eagles are coming off a phenomenal year in 2018 that saw them take home the 4A state title. This roster is absolutely loaded with talent, including ten players currently committed to play at the next level. Coach Kunkel is keen on his pitching staff, which is one of the best in the state. Expect Calvary Christian to make a deep run again during the 2019 season as they chase back to back state titles.
Christ School Greenies Arden, NC - 4A 2018 Record: 21-3
The Christ School Greenies will make their first FHSI appearance in 2019 as one of three non-Florida schools in this year’s event. They are coming off an impressive 2018 campaign that saw them finish 21-3 with a state playoff appearance. The Greenies are led by the captain trio of Max Lecroy, Mac Gortney and Chad Treadway, all of whom are committed to play at the collegiate level after high school. Head Coach Cody Geyer loves his team’s chemistry, and likes their chances at taking home a North Carolina State title in 2019.
Flagler Palm Coast Bulldogs Palm Coast, FL - 9A 2018 Record: 9-15
The Bulldogs have been a staple at the FHSI, with this being the sixth straight tournament that they have competed. Coach Butler’s squad had a down year last year, but they return a now veteran class of juniors and a strong core of senior leaders. They are led by seniors Jace Wilson, D’Emiliano Whiters, Charlie Alfano and Brock Underberg, and a very talented junior class who saw a lot of action last year led by Aedan Celestino, Ashton Neuman and Matt Arnold. Coach Butler expects his team to compete for a district championship and another Five Star Conference title in 2019.
Orangewood Christian Rams Maitland, FL - 3A 2018 Record: 17-11
Orangewood is no stranger to the FHSI. This will be their sixth straight, and eighth overall, appearance. Skipper Scott Hilinski has taken home five of the last seven district titles, and is looking to make it six with the help of senior leaders Brooks Rikeman, Matt Simon, Josh Morse, and Troy McPeak. Rikeman coaches the game behind the plate, and is a key component of the offense while Simon has an above average glove up the middle and sets the table for the offense. McPeak has big time pop in the stick, and Morse can play multiple positions for the Rams.
Second Baptist Eagles Houston, TX - 5A 2018 Record: 22-16
We welcome Head Coach Lance Berkman and the Second Baptist Eagles to their first FHSI tournament. Hailing from Houston, TX, the Eagles are looking to make an early season splash before heading back for a tough district schedule. Second Baptist has made the final eight of the Texas state playoffs each of the last three years, including a title in 2016. This year, they are a youthful team, but feature strong senior leaders in Reid Stiefel, Michael Fordham, and Anthony MacKenzie according to Coach Berkman. Team strengths are speed and team defense.
South Fork Bulldogs Stuart, FL - 7A 2018 Record: 9-17
This will be the second straight and fourth time overall that the South Fork Bulldogs have participated in the FHSI. While last year did not go as planned, Coach Tony Malizia is excited for his squad that features twelve players with varsity experience. He is high on the team’s pitching staff as a strength, as well a handful of players who can play multiple positions. The center of his defense ... C Ryan Shuley, SS Marcus Mastellone, 2B Tim Kudlinski, and CF Andrew Mitchell will keep the Bulldogs in the game against anyone.
University Pioneers Normal, IL - 3A 2018 Record: 28-9
The University Pioneers are making a 1,136 mile trip to take part in their first FHSI tournament. Head Coach Steve Paxson is bringing a very talented ball club that features a plethora of talent from both the class of 2019 and 2020. Fresh off a 28-9 season and conference title, the Pioneers will be led by seniors Paul Africano, Nate Hardman, Jack Sauser and Parker Mathieson. Keep an eye on junior Jacob Mote and sophomore Karson Bonaparte as well; both players are among the Top 50 in the state of Illinois according to Perfect Game.
Teams for the Spring Training event include:
Greenback Cherokees - Greenback, TN
Houston Christian Mustangs - Houston, TX
Ontario Royals - Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Oshawa Legionaires - Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Monday March 11
8:45 am - Houston Christian vs. Ontario Royals (ST)
11:15 am - Houston Christian vs. Ontario Royals (ST)
1:45 pm - University vs. Barron Collier
4:15 pm - Christ School vs. Second Baptist
6:45 pm - Calvary Christian vs. South Fork
Game at Orangewood Christian
4:00 pm - Orangewood vs. Flagler Palm Coast
Tuesday March 12
8:30 am - Oshawa Legionares vs. Ontario Royals (ST)
11:00 am - South Fork vs. University
4:00 pm - Barron Collier vs. Calvary Christian
Game at Celebration High School
6:00 pm - Greenback vs. Celebration (ST)
Wednesday March 13
11:30 am - Greenback vs. Ontario Royals (ST)
2:00 pm - Oshawa Legionaires vs. Houston Christian (ST)
4:30 pm - Flagler Palm Coast vs. Christ School
7:00 pm - Orangewood vs. Second Baptist
Thursday March 14
8:45 am - Greenback vs. Houston Christian (ST)
11:15 am - Barron Collier vs. South Fork
1:45 pm - Second Baptist vs. Flagler Palm Coast
4:15 pm - Orangewood vs. Christ School
6:45 pm - University vs. Calvary Christian
Friday March 15
8:45 am - Pool A #4 vs. Pool B #4
11:15 am - Pool A #3 vs. Pool B #3
1:45 pm - Pool A #2 vs. Pool B #2
4:15 pm - Pool A #1 vs. Pool B #1
For live stats, game recaps, schedule updates and more, please visit www.FloridaLeagueTournaments.com