GamePrep has long felt right at home in Cypress, Texas.
Two years ago, in the inaugural Class of 2020 National Tournament of the New Balance Future Stars Series, the GamePrep Baseball Academy 2020 squad — based at Sacred Heart Prep — earned the championship, propelled by Jake Albro’s winning effort in the tourney opener.
“So, we have some history out here,” Albro said.
Albro (Menlo-Atherton) got GamePrep off to a hot start in the third-annual tournament this year. The left-hander fired six innings of one-hit baseball Thursday to earn the win in a 7-2 victory over LB 21 out of Corpus Christi, Texas.
“He did amazing,” GamePrep manager Anthony Granato said. “He did awesome. He was throwing strikes, keeping the ball down. … They couldn’t really square much up.”
The southpaw’s gem set the tone for GamePrep’s 2-0 start in pool play of the 30-team tournament. In Thursday’s nightcap, GamePrep rallied through the early innings for a 5-3 win over Bartolucci Baseball out of Keller, Texas, fueled by Julien Hernandez (Menlo School), who went 2 for 2 with an RBI.
Hernandez also finished out Albro’s victory over LB 21, working the seventh inning, allowing one run on one hit.
Granato held a meeting with the pitchers and catchers prior to the start of the tournament to reinforce three core concepts: getting strike one; filling up the strike zone; and setting a good tempo. Granato said Albro, working with catcher Drew Aspillera (Hillsdale) checked all three boxes.
“The whole staff was just successful with that today,” Albro said.
With two games remaining in pool play Friday, GamePrep likely needs to win just one more game to advance to the playoff format.
“Then we have to win three in a row to win the tournament,” Granato said.
Qualifying as an affiliate of the New Balance Future Stars Series comes with some serious perks. In December, 30-40 players from GamePrep’s three teams (Class of 2020 to 2022) participated in a scout day held at Skyline College, during which a collegiate scouting page was created for every player.
It’s the new breed of baseball — the travel baseball circuit — which has revolutionized baseball development over the past decade.
“To be in this [Class of 2020 National Tournament], you have to be an affiliate organization … and then with an affiliate, they kind of set different levels,” Granato said.
Granato has garnered the most attention in recent years of anyone in the GamePrep program. In September, he will make his second straight trip to the Future Stars Series International Week, where he will serve as the hitting coach for the series held Sept. 20-22 at Fenway Park. He coached as part of International Week last season as well, serving as third-base coach at the same venue.
Albro is racking up his fair share of frequent flier miles as well. Following the current tournament in Cypress, Texas, Albro will fly back to the Bay Area Sunday night. He then makes a quick turnaround, flying to New Hampshire next Wednesday to attend to baseball camp at Dartmouth University.
Albro certainly had his feet on the ground in climbing the pitching mound Thursday, though. His offense staked him to an immediate lead as GamePrep rallied for two runs in the top of the first, fueled a two-run single by Mitch Nabeta (Serra). Three Serra boys enjoyed big days at the plate. Michael Sarhatt (Serra) was 2 for 4 with a double and three RBIs in the game, including a two-run single to cap a four-run fourth. Kyle Pe (Serra) was 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI.
Albro cruised through six innings, totaling five strikeouts. He took a no-hitter into the fourth inning. The only hit he surrendered was an infield single with one out in the fourth.
While the lefty has worked to develop a slider through his junior year at M-A, and into the summer with GamePrep, he relied mostly on a fastball-changeup combination Thursday.
“It’s like I told my catcher Drew today, we’re just going to stay with my fastball-changeup until they prove they can hit it,” Albro said.
Pool play continues Friday in Cypress, Texas with GamePrep facing STiKS Academy out of Waukesha, Wisconsin.