High-SchoolBaseball: Nelson Rodriguez

Top NYC team plays on without injured star

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
11:30
PM ET
Nelson Rodriguez & Fernelys SanchezLucas O'Neill/ESPNHSNelson Rodriguez (left) has been forced to play without George Washington (New York) teammate Fernelys Sanchez, who is out with a broken leg, at the USA Baseball H.S. Invitational.
CARY, N.C. -- George Washington (New York) has had a rough go of it so far at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational. The lone representative from the Northeast, the Trojans fell to Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.) 11-3 on Wednesday and Russell County (Seale, Ala.) 8-0 on Thursday.

Unlike most of the teams at the tournament, George Washington’s season has essentially just started. They played nine games in March — none against what would be considered national-caliber programs. But the bigger obstacle for the Trojans this week is that they are without star outfielder Fernelys Sanchez, the No. 93 recruit in the ESPN 100.

Well, that’s not technically true. Fernelys made the trip to North Carolina and was there in the dugout for both games, but the large cast on his right leg made playing impossible. Sanchez broke his leg last week when his foot got stuck in the dirt while running the basepaths and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

“All I was thinking was just, ‘North Carolina, North Carolina,’ man,” Sanchez recalled. “I was just thinking about this week. I was just really looking forward to joining my team and Nelson…

“It happens, though; it’s baseball," he continued. "Now I’ve just got to adjust to what’s next.”

Nelson would be Nelson Rodriguez, the Trojans’ other senior leader. A star since his freshman campaign, Rodriguez has long been compared to another Trojans’ power-hitter: Manny Ramirez. And the person making the comparison, coach Steve Mandl, is in a position to know: He coached Ramirez at GW.

Rodriguez and Sanchez have been best friends since Little League. One year they were opponents, the next year they were teammates, and the rest is history.

“That’s where everything started right there,” said Sanchez. “From then on, we always played together.”

But that could change next year. While both players have committed to Central Arizona CC, it’s likely that one or both will choose to go pro instead following June's MLB draft. That’s what makes this year all the more important — and Sanchez’s injury all the more disappointing. Still, the Trojans will settle for nothing less than a city championship.

“Now that Fernelys is injured, we have to adjust to the atmosphere,” said Rodriguez. “It’s a big loss and hopefully he gets better soon.”

Playing or not, Sanchez will be there every step of the way.

One-Man Show

Courtney Hawkins led Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas) over Gulliver Prep (Pinecrest, Fla.) Thursday morning, supplying the game’s only run with a solo blast in the top of the third. Hawkins, No. 26 in the ESPN 100, also pitched 5.1 innings of four-hit ball with nine strikeouts and two walks.

“Courtney kind of showed up today,” said Carroll coach Lee Yeager, whose team entered the tournament No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50. “It came down to what he did for us.”

Making the performance more impressive is the fact that Gulliver boasts at least a trio of potential early-round draft picks in Adrian Marin, Chris Chinea and Eric Neitzel. Hawkins did some reconnaissance work before the game to get an edge on the Raiders’ potent lineup.

“I got a little help from some guys in Florida I know that play with them,” he said with a smile.

Giant Killers

Hawkins’ smile was short-lived, figuratively speaking, as within a couple hours his Tiger team was getting trounced by Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). The Monarchs, who were ranked No. 2 in the preseason POWERADE FAB 50 but had since fallen out of the rankings, had the tournament's toughest draw, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at their box scores.

A day after taking out the nation’s No. 1 team, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), by a score of 10-3, Mater Dei defeated No. 2 Carroll by mercy rule, 12-0. Ty Moore led the way for the Monarchs on Thursday, pitching four scoreless innings and hitting a three-run home run.

No. 1*

The radar guns were out in force Thursday as Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) co-ace Max Fried took the hill against Parkview. The nation’s No. 4 prospect in the ESPN 100, Fried didn’t disappoint, striking out eight in the Wolverines' 10-3 win.

Perhaps more important to the many scouts in attendance, Fried touched 94 mph on the gun and was consistently in the 89-91 range on his fastball. His 80-mph breaking ball was equally devastating. While Fried’s injured teammate, RHP Lucas Giolito, is the No. 1 player in the ESPN 100, Fried might be just as coveted by MLB teams come draft time for one reason: He’s a southpaw.

Harvard-Westlake will face American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) in the semifinals on Friday.

Come Sail Away

Sarasota (Fla.) is one of the few teams that entered the tournament unranked in the FAB 50, but that could change after the Sailors won both ends of a double-header on Thursday to earn a semifinal tilt with Mater Dei on Friday.

In a morning matchup with Lee County (Sanford, N.C.), Sarasota scored 14 unanswered runs, breaking the game open with five runs in the sixth and another six in the seventh in a 14-2 victory. In the nightcap, sophomore Evan Mendoza went the distance for the Sailors in the 5-3 win.

“This is the best thing I’ve seen done for high school baseball yet,” said coach Clyde Metcalf, who’s in his 31st year at the helm. “Our kids have been really excited about this since it was announced. We’re grateful to be here.”
Max FriedCourtesy of Matt LaCour/Harvard-WestlakeSenior lefty Max Fried will lead Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) into this week's USA Baseball National High School Invitational
Four days, 16 teams, 32 games -- however you slice it there is going to be a lot of baseball played between Wednesday and Saturday during the USA Baseball National High School Invitational.

But the event isn’t just about quantity. There’s plenty of quality on hand. Six teams in the POWERADE FAB 50 made the trip to Cary, N.C., along with 10 players in the ESPN 100. The tournament kicks off with American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) facing Oxford (Ala.) Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET, and it culminates with the championship on Saturday at noon ET in a game that will be streamed live on MLB.com.

Here’s a look at the top storylines to follow as the event unfolds.

Life without No. 1

Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) had a dream rotation lined up for the spring with top right-hander (and No. 1 overall prospect) Lucas Giolito and top southpaw Max Fried both on the roster. But in his third start of the season on March 6, Giolito left the game with what was later diagnosed as a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. UCL injuries lead to Tommy John surgery, so Giolito did the wise thing and shut it down. He remains extremely unlikely to pitch again this season.

Fortunately for the Wolverines, fate dealt them a second ace for the 2012 season. Fried transferred to Harvard-Westlake after his old school, Montclair Prep (Van Nuys, Calif.), announced it was cutting all extracurricular activities just a couple months before the school year began. Rated the nation’s No. 4 overall prospect, Fried struggled a bit early in the season but has been nails since Giolito went down. In his most recent start last Friday, Fried fanned 14 over five innings in a 9-3 win against Lancaster (Calif.).

Stepping into the No. 2 spot in the rotation is sophomore RHP Jack Flaherty. In the second game of the doubleheader against Lancaster last Friday, Flaherty earned the win on the mound and also smacked a home run. So yeah, don’t count Harvard-Westlake out quite yet.

Titletown

The players on this year’s Columbus (Ga.) baseball team know a little something about winning. In addition to claiming the past two Class AAA state crowns, the Blue Devils boast four players who were on Columbus’ Little League World Series championship team in 2006. Kyle Carter, J.T. Phillips, Josh Lester and Ryan Lang keyed the Little League run, and they haven’t slowed down since.

Carter and Phillips have both pledged to Georgia, but they’d undoubtedly love to add a new piece of hardware to their already loaded trophy cases before they take the next step in their careers. It’s no long shot, either, as Columbus currently sits at No. 3 in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Thawing Out

Of the 16 teams in the tournament, 14 hail from traditional baseball hotbeds. Florida, California and Georgia are each represented by three squads, Alabama will send two, and Texas, Nevada and North Carolina send a team apiece. The remaining two teams don’t quite fit the warm-weather bill, however.

George Washington hails from a few blocks north of Yankee Stadium in New York City, while Highlands Ranch is located in the Denver suburbs. But just because the players on these two teams are handy with a snow shovel doesn’t mean they aren’t adept with a bat and glove as well.

George Washington features a pair of elite talents in outfielder Fernelys Sanchez and catcher Nelson Rodriguez. Sanchez fractured his fibula in a game Saturday and will miss the event, but the power bat of Rodriguez and a deep pitching staff should allow the Trojans to contend for the tournament title.

Highlands Ranch is led by right-hander Ryan Burr. The No. 72 recruit in the ESPN 100, Burr fanned a staggering 95 batters in 53 innings last spring. The Arizona State pledge will get plenty of help in North Carolina from returning All-State picks RHP/SS Tony Audino and C Adam Gauthier.

Young Money

With elite senior prospects on display like No. 4 Fried, No. 5 Joey Gallo of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), No. 12 Lucas Sims of Brookwood (Snellville, Ga.) and No. 26 Courtney Hawkins of Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas), the Class of 2012 is very well represented. But don’t sleep on the talent from the Class of 2013.

Leading the way for the juniors is a pair of catchers: Zach Collins from American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) and Jeremy Martinez from Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). Collins is hitting a team-best .500 so far this season through 16 games, while Martinez is coming off a sophomore campaign in which he batted .388 and drove in 32 runs.

Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.) outfielder Josh Hart and Columbus (Ga.) righty Hunter Swilling are another couple juniors to watch. Meanwhile, Sarasota (Fla.) junior outfielder Jason Sierra has already pledged to Vanderbilt.

Sleeper?

Not a single player from Oxford (Ala.) has been mentioned thus far, but the Yellow Jackets have the kind of pitching depth needed to make some noise at an event like this in which teams have to play four games in four days.

A pair of SEC-bound senior right-handers lead the staff in Tucker Simpson (Florida) and Jackson Stephens (Alabama). Each is also dangerous at the plate, but it’s senior outfielder Matthew Goodson who’s the most lethal with the lumber. The Alabama pledge blasted 22 long balls last spring.

Senior hurlers Zach Lovvorn and Frazier Taylor each won seven games last season and provide serious depth at the back end of the rotation. And then there’s Trent Simpson, a budding superstar for Oxford in the junior class.

Add it up, and that just might be the winning formula.

2011 Underclass All-Americans

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:10
PM ET
To wrap up coverage of the 2011 high school baseball season, the ESPN RISE Underclass All-America Team was annouced.

George Washington (Bronx, N.Y.) has two of its players on this year's team, Nelson Rodriguez (first team) and Fernelys Sanchez (second team). The pair led the school to a 36-1 overall record and capped the season with a PSAL Title.

Sanchez and Rodriguez both played for the Yankees in the 2010 Area Code Baseball Games in Long Beach, Calif. This year the pair will once again journey out West as they are apart of the 2011 New York Yankees.

Kayden Porter of Spanish Fork (Spanish Fork, Utah) was the national junior of the year. He helped guide his team (29-3) to a No. 7 ranking in the POWERADE ESPN RISE FAB 50 National Rankings. Porter will play for the Cincinnati Reds at the 2011 Area Code Baseball Games this upcoming August.

Ty Moore is another name that jumps off this list. He made it to the Area Code Games in 2011 as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers team. The outfielder led his Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) team to a 24-6 record and in the process earned Orange County Register Player of the Year. At the plate Moore hit .510 and on the mound he went 10-2.

Harvard-Westlake's (North Hollywood, Calif.) Lucas Giolito was selected first team as well. Back in 2010 he played for the Milwaukee Brewers in the Area Code Baseball Games and as an underclassman he posted the highest recorded fastball of the week, 96.3mph. He is a physical presence on the mound standing at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds.

Another national standout, Rio Ruiz, also made the first team. He led Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.) to a CIFSS Div. 4 title with a win over Palm Desert (Palm Desert, Calif.). That game was played at Dodger Stadium and wouldn't you know it, he hit one out. He also helped guide his team to the Hard 9 National Classic title, at Cal State Fullerton.

In that game Ruiz started at third base. He made a couple of nice defensive plays and at the plate hit the ball hard. Where he caught much of the crowd's attention was when he stepped onto the mound. The Ezperanza (Anaheim, Calif.) offense was not ready for him. He closed out the game's final couple of innings throwing in the low to mid-90s. The Aztecs could not catch up with it.

ESPN RISE Underclass All-America Team | ESPN RISE All-America Team

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