July 16, 2018 10:14:13 PM
Blayze Berry already has built a name for himself thanks to his exploits on the summer travel ball circuit.
The Heritage Academy rising junior knows domination is a perfect way to add to that buzz.
Playing with the East Coast Sox Select, Berry is coming off a strong showing at the World Wood Bat Association (WWBA) 16-and-under National Championship in Emerson, Georgia, in which he threw a no-hitter as part of his team's 6-1 finish.
"I still wasn't woken up, I am not going to lie," Berry said about the early morning start time for his no-hitter. "I settled in about the third inning and I started pounding the zone a little more."
Unfortunately for the East Coast Sox Select team, the Ostingers Baseball Academy went 7-0 in Pool U to advance to bracket play in the event, which featured 48 eight-team pools.
Berry needed only 65 pitches to throw the five-inning no-hitter in a run-rule victory against the Diamond Jacks Super 16 on July 9. The team played its first game July 6 and its final game July 11.
Berry said he didn't know he had a no-hitter until one of his teammates told him in the last inning. The conversation didn't spoil Berry's gem, though, but a line drive that the right fielder caught for the first out created a moment of drama.
"I didn't care about it," Berry said. "I just went out and threw. I just tried not to do too much."
Berry also saw time in the infield when he wasn't pitching.
East Coast Sox Select coach Jeff Mauldin, who is baseball coach at Hewitt-Trussville High School (Ala.) and also serves as a hitting instructor in the East Coast Baseball organization, praised Berry for his efforts. Berry also earned a win after coming in in the final inning to strike out the side July 6. The East Coast Sox Select walked it off in the bottom half of the inning for a 1-0 victory.
"He is an absolute bulldog on the mound and an absolute competitor," Mauldin said. "He wouldn't give in to a hitter (in the no-hitter)."
Mauldin said Berry followed the scouting report and was able to locate three pitches to both sides of the plate. He said Berry struck out five and walked one and induced a lot of weak contact by not pitching to a hitter's strengths.
"He absolutely carved them up," Mauldin said. "It was only a five-inning no-hitter, but it would have been a seven-inning no-hitter. He was that good."
Hamilton High standout Brady Davis joined Berry on the East Coast Sox Select team's 26-player roster. Eight players on the team have made verbal commitments to Division I schools, including three to Ole Miss. Other players have committed to TCU, Samford, LSU, Auburn, and Southern Mississippi.
Mauldin said he has talked to college coaches about Berry. He said Berry's performance earlier this month is going to pique the interest of even more coaches to see the right-hander in the Perfect Game 16U World Series July 22-26 in Emerson, Georgia.
In March, Berry earned honorable mention accolades on the Rawlings and Perfect Game Preseason All-America teams. The squads recognize the top underclass high school baseball athletes in the United State in the classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021.
The Rawlings-Perfect Game Preseason All American first, second, and third team recognize 300 players from the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Each team features 100 players who are juniors, sophomores, or freshmen in high school. There is also a high honorable mention and an honorable mention list to identify other potential top underclassmen.
Caledonia High's Beau Bates joined Berry on the list.
If Berry continues to perform at a high level, Mauldin, who was a pitcher at Alabama-Birmingham from 1992-1996, is confident the Heritage Academy standout will attract even more attention. He feels Berry will be prepared for it. In fact, he said he recently told a college coach he loves Berry's tenacity.
"I told him he is a bulldog when the game is on the line and you want him somewhere on the field," Mauldin said. "I think he made a name for himself as a pitcher. He is just a baseball player. You can throw him out there in the infield and he will hold his own. He has some pop on his bat. I think he definitely will be a guy who can pitch at a lot of high levels."
Berry is looking forward to another chance to prove himself. He knows the East Coast Sox Select team will face tough competition, but he said he is eager to challenge hitters when he is on the mound. Berry hopes his work will help him realize a dream and play baseball in college.
"I want nothing but the best," Berry said. "I just want to try to find the right school. It is going to be whatever fits me and whoever wants me the most. Hopefully everything works out."
Starkville High's Jack Perry was on the roster of the East Coast Sox Elite team that finished 5-2 (second) in Pool T. Perry also was on the roster for the East Coast Sox Diamond team that finished 2-5 in Pool R.
Heritage Academy's Banks Hyde was on the roster of the East Coast Sox Prime team that finished 1-5-1 in Poll BB.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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