SAN DIEGO — College baseball recruiting is a fickle mistress for coaches and fans alike. Unlike when football and basketball recruits sign a National Letter of Intent, the recruitment doesn’t end. The decision-making process isn’t over for the athlete because players still have the opportunity to sign professionally.
Recruiting rankings mean nothing until players actually arrive on campus and suit up on the field. But that doesn’t mean fans can’t get excited about the prospect of players that have committed. The University of Southern California fans should have a tempered excitement as they hope that the 2013 class makes it campus.
The stars of USC’s potentially dynamic class were on display Sunday night at Petco Park during the Perfect Game All-American Classic. The foursome of Trojan commits (JP Crawford, Dominic Smith, Jeremy Martinez and Rowdy Tellez) combined for five hits, five RBI, two runs and three stolen bases to help spur the West.
After Martinez tied the score early with an RBI single, Smith and Tellez highlighted the West squad’s six-run rally in the sixth and seventh innings. Tellez’s two-run triple in the seventh inning put the West ahead for good.
After the game, I talked with Smith and Crawford about what it means to play in the All-American Classic, the West team’s comeback and USC’s potential with the four All-Americans. (Note: In the interviews, I misreferenced USC having five commits in the game rather than four.)
From Serra High in Los Angeles, Smith played outfield in the All-American Classic, but the 6-foot, 195-pound southpaw also has potential on the bump. Though he didn’t pitch in Sunday’s game, Smith has been previously clocked at 92-93 mph.
Rated by Perfect Game as the No. 2 overall player to participate in the All-American Classic, Smith did not disappoint. He showed his sweet stroke going the opposite way with a fastball on his two-run single. He also flashed his speed and smarts when he got a huge jump and stole third without even drawing a throw.
“Electric playmaker” is a description usually reserved for other sports, but that’s exactly what John Paul Crawford is. If he ever puts on the cardinal and gold at Dedeaux Field, he will quickly become a fan favorite. He puts constant pressure on the defense. But it’s not just his speed that has scouts salivating.
The left-handed hitting Lakewood HS (Lakewood, Calif.) infielder isn’t just a slap hitter. He has promising and surprising pop despite his thin, 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame. He showed that off in the first round of the Home Run Challenge held Saturday when he blasted seven homers.
On Sunday, Crawford led the game off with a single and promptly stole second base but was stranded in scoring position. He reached on a fielder’s choice in the third inning when his speed kept the middle infield from turning a double play. Crawford took advantage of being on the base paths by stealing second and advancing to third when the throw went into the oufield. However, he was once again stranded at third base.
Crawford’s speed helped him reach base in the West’s four-run sixth inning as well. With a runner on first, he hit a grounder to first, but in the first baseman’s angst to quickly deliver the ball to second in order to try to turn a double play, the throw was off the mark, allowing bother runners to reach safely.