It’s hard to believe that another installment of the National High School Invitational has come and gone. As I sorted through and edited the 4,500-plus photos and video that we captured from the 2014 NHSI, it dawned on me just how quickly it went and how little of it I actually got to absorb and watch. Given that we had to cover 32 games crammed into a 60-hour period on four fields, it’s easy to understand how that happened.
Sixteen of the country’s top teams compete for the right to take home the NHSI trophy, the beautiful piece of hardware pictured above. What made 2014 different from the previous two years was the fact that a new NHSI champion would be crowned. Mater Dei, a powerhouse program from Santa Ana, Calif., had taken the first two tournaments by storm. With a fresh crop of top programs in 2014, we were guaranteed a new champion.
The first day of the NHSI began on a delay. Due to the threat of snow and freezing rain the day before, the start of action on Day 1 was pushed back. That meant all first round games would be played within a five-hour time frame in the afternoon.
As with the previous two years, pitching dominated Day 1. We saw four shutouts and eight complete-game efforts. Several draft prospects, which included Coral Spring Christian’s Touki Toussiant and Gainsville’s Michael Gettys, took to the mount and delivered dominant victories. The only team that really broke out offensively was Dyer County, which racked up a whopping 16 runs in their 16-1 win over Aliso Niguel.
The common theme for this year’s NHSI was the weather, and unfortunately, none of it was good. After a delayed start to Day 1 (a day which did not see the temperature reach 50 degrees), Day 2 and 3 were condensed together into a single day to avoid a large storm that was scheduled to hit the area on Friday. That turned Day 2’s eight-game schedule into a 15-game marathon.
Each team played two games with the exception of Parkview and Huntsville. So there was plenty to cover and discuss. Bats came alive on Day 2. We only saw three shutouts, a day after seeing half the games end that way. Draft prospects also dominated. Parkview left-hander Mac Marshall shoved against Venice, finishing a shutout on just 88 pitches in front of possibly as many scouts.
The First Academy got two stellar pitching performances from their starters, helping them advance to the championship game. Clovis also advanced to the championship on a combination of solid pitching and timely hitting. Jacob Gatewood led an offensive charge for Clovis in its semifinal game against Coral Springs Christian, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
Day 3 of the NHSI was a race against mother nature. With a massive storm moving in, we were up and out at the fields early to get the final nine games in before the rain began. All but the final game finished rain free. Seven innings was not enough for T.C. Roberson and Mountain Pointe. Their game went 10 innings before Mountain Pointe walked off, beating Roberson 10-9. Parkview and Aliso Niguel closed out the 2014 NHSI with a rainy, offensive show. Aliso Niguel won 6-3.
The NHSI championship game was a back and forth thriller between The First Academy and Clovis. The First Academy took the lead on a three-run sixth inning and never gave it back. They captured their first NHSI championship with a 5-3 win. For the first time in its short history, the NHSI trophy will be making its new home in a state other than California. It’s Florida bound!
Even with all the weather issues, the 2014 edition of the NHSI lived up to the high expectations that come with the billing of the top high school event in the country. The games were thrilling and the prospects were out in full force showcasing their talent. Work has already begun on the 2015 NHSI and we can’t wait to see what USA Baseball and Baseball America have in store for us!