by Beau Wicker
There were approximately 30 Major League scouts on hand to watch New Castle star Trey Ball Saturday afternoon at Jim Turner Field.
He did not disappoint.
“Trey Baseball” put on a show to lead the Trojans to a sweep against the Berries by scores of 12-2 and 6-0.
“At the high school level, he’s one of the best players since my days playing against the Underwoods and Mike Dimmel and those guys, this is the best player I’ve seen since,” Logan coach Jim Turner said.
The Trojans (17-6, 7-3 North Central Conference) moved into a tie for first place in the conference standings with Huntington North.
The Berries (12-8, 4-6), meanwhile, are currently three games back with four to play with five teams ahead of them, though they do finish by facing the bottom two teams, Marion and Muncie Central.
Ball went 3-for-3 with a grand slam, two triples and three runs scored to lead the Trojans in game one.
He then turned around and fired a two-hit shutout, striking out 12 in game two.
The 6-foot-6 senior left-hander was hitting 90-plus mph on the radar gun and also had a nasty changeup and curveball — a pitch he started throwing just last year.
Ball will likely be a millionaire soon. He was invited to attend the MLB draft on June 6 in New York and is projected as a first-round pick.
“I’ve seen anywhere from 4 to 15,” New Castle coach Brad King said of where Ball will be selected.
Wherever Ball plays, the MLB scouts follow.
“When he’s not pitching, there hasn’t been as many. Usually there’s about half that when he’s not on the mound,” King said. “When he’s on the mound, they usually all come.
“That’s the thing I’ve been impressed with my team is we don’t let it impact anyone.”
The Berries didn’t put together any offense in the first game against Michael Bear until the sixth inning. Clayton Frye drew a leadoff walk and Marcus Record followed with a pinch-hit double. Frye then scored on a wild pitch, and Dustin Clements followed with an RBI single.
Frye and Clements each had hard-hit singles against Ball in game two, but Frye was thrown out at third on Clements’ hit to help end that chance.
Cody Graf pitched four scoreless innings to start game two, including getting Ball to fly out to left in the first. But the Trojans got to him with a five-run fifth inning. Ball was intentionally walked in his final two at-bats of the day.
Kyle Jordan allowed a run in 1 2/3 innings of relief. Travis Palmer made a great leaping catch near the center-field fence and completed a double play at second to end the fifth.
Frye got the start in game one but didn’t have his usual command. He allowed eight runs (seven earned) in four innings, with Ball’s grand slam being the big blow. Zach Shilts struggled with his control in his second inning of relief that led to four more runs scored in the six-inning game.
“I thought we were flat,” Turner said. “We were flat, and we were in awe of their star player instead of being ready to compete. This was a great opportunity for them with lots of people here that could have put in good words for those guys. I just thought were a little flat and timid.”
Ball tied New Castle career records for wins (18) and home runs (18) on the day, while setting a new record for strikeouts (254).
Maybe this brush with greatness is what the Berries need to get going. It seemed they put better at-bats together against Ball than they have in many other games this season.
The Berries aren’t having the season they planned on having, but they were still major contenders in the NCC in a year where the conference is very strong. The Berries can look back at close losses to Huntington North and Anderson and a disappointing set with Kokomo as games they’d like to have back. But moving forward, they’ll try to win out against Marion and Muncie, and they certainly will be in the mix in what looks to be a wide open sectional field at Loeb Stadium later in the month, though No. 8 McCutcheon looks to be the favorite. The sectional draw is on Tuesday morning.
Logan hosts Marion on Tuesday for senior night.