Gems aplenty at 8th Garden State Underclass Games

By Bob Behre | June 15, 2021

The Garden State Underclass Games returns to Diamond Nation on Thursday night after a one year hiatus triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the lost 2020 season, the event is expected to be as terrific as any of the past seven Underclass Games held at the state’s premier baseball facility.

The 2021 high school baseball season has truly given the state baseball community a shot in the arm with the NJSIAA Non-Public finals still to be played on Wednesday and the four Public championships set for Saturday.

But, on Thursday, most of the top 100 underclass prospects in the state of New Jersey will come together for a pair of highly anticipated games that will highlight their abundant skills in front of an enormous audience of college and professional scouts. The 2019 Underclass Games, for example, drew 150 scouts to Diamond Nation, creating an intense and highly competitive baseball atmosphere.

“The Underclass Games are as big as ever and we can’t wait to bring the players and college coaches together in another amazing recruiting environment,” said Steve DiTrolio, Diamond Nation’s recruiting coordinator.

It will truly mark the first major scouting event at Diamond Nation since the advent of the pandemic and since the NCAA finally lifted its long-extended COVID-induced dead period on Division 1 recruiting.

While 18 of Prep Baseball Report’s (PBR) top New Jersey underclassmen are participating in the Garden State Games, the rest of the invitees are uncommitted players. This represents an enormous opportunity for both the college scouts and the uncommitted players.

“We’ve invited the most uncommitted players ever for the games to showcase their skills in front of the college scouts,” says DiTrolio. “There was a void in college recruiting last spring and summer due to the pandemic and we are intent on filling in.”

Prep Baseball Report’s Top 25 consists of the top New Jersey players it has identified for the 2022 MLB Draft class.

The event begins with batting practice starting at 4:45 p.m., followed by Infield/Outfield at 6 p.m. Player introductions will be conducted at 6:45 p.m. and first pitch for the two games is 7 p.m.

There will be 57 juniors and a total of 51 sophomores and freshmen playing in the game. On top of that, Diamond Nation has brought in 40 of the top 7th and 8th graders to compete in the Futures Game. There will be a total of 83 uncommitted high school players competing in the games.

PBR New Jersey will be on site to accumulate player data as will Blast Motion to conduct analytics during pre-game batting practice, measuring such things as bat speed and launch angle.

Here are some of the top players at the 2021 Garden State Underclass Games.

Nazier Mule, SS/RHP, Passaic Tech, PBR Rank – 1: Nazier is a one man wrecking crew. The 6-3, 205 Miami recruit is a premier two-way talent with a fastball topping out at 97. He used that weapon to record 64 strikeouts in 34.2 innings. He also slashed 15 extra-base hits for the Wayne school.

Chris Maldonado, SS, Seton Hall Prep, PBR Rank – 4: Maldonado had a terrific junior season, driving in 35 runs on 36 hits, including 6 HRs. On top of that, he is identified as the top position player in the 2022 class. The Clemson commit debuted in the Garden State Games as a freshman in 2019.

Zach Crotchfelt, LHP, Jackson Memorial, PBR Rank – 6: Zach is the top-ranked lefthander in New Jersey’s 2022 class and an Auburn commit. His fastball tops out at 93 and it showed when he struck out 69 in 34.2 innings for one of the top teams in one of the top leagues in the state.

Andrew Fischer, 3B, Wall, PBR Rank – 8: The 6-2, 195 third baseman is the top lefty-hitting bat in the 2022 class. A well-rounded hitter, he had 25 hits, 13 of them for extra bases, drove in 21 runs and drew 31 walks. He’s committed to Duke.

Trevor Cohen, LHP/OF/1B, Holy Spirit, PBR Rank – 9: The 6-1, 180 Rutgers commit has helped guide Holy Spirit to the NJSIAA Non-Public B championship game, which will be played the day prior to the Underclass Games. The lefty-hitting Cohen is the top outfielder in the Garden State’s 2022 class.

Kyle McCoy, LHP, Hunterdon Central, PBR Rank – 10: The 6-5, 190 lefthander is making his Garden State Games debut after a season in which he struck out 77, walked just five and permitted five earned runs in 45.2 innings. McCoy was an early commit to Maryland.

While we cannot wait to see these top players compete, we also are excited for the anticipated deep well of talented players to emerge at the Garden State Games.

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