SANFORD, Fla. – When the Dulins Dodgers-McGarrh show up at a Perfect Game World Series event, wonderful things usually begin to happen for them. At least that’s been the case for the last two-and now going on three-years.
Many of the players putting on their Dulins Dodgers uniforms at this week’s PG 16U World Series being played at the BOOMBAH Sports Complex are the same dudes who slipped them on and won PG 14U and 15U World Series championships in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
And, not surprisingly perhaps, they’ve picked it right up over the last four days at the 16U, going a perfect 5-0-0 in pool-play and earning the playoffs’ No. 1 seed, which affords entry directly into Wednesday’s quarterfinal round in the Gold Bracket.
“These first four days, it’s just been a real team effort,” the Dodgers’ top class of 2022 prospect Easton Carmichael told PG Tuesday. “You come out to all these tournaments and you play the best of the best. … Going 5-0 in pool-play, it’s a good thing because it’s not only our individually good players, it’s that as a team we’re coming together and it’s really good to see that.”
The Dulins Dodgers-McGarrh are from program founder/owner Tim Dulin’s west wing, so to speak, the one based in the Dallas area (the organization’s primary base of operations remains in the Memphis, Tenn., area). The program has done a lot of winning over the last 20 years but this young group from Texas continues to establish itself in a head-turning way.
“This is really the core group that we had when we started our Dallas program,” Dulin told PG during a conversation Tuesday that took play while the Dodgers-McGarrh were playing their final pool game of the tournament. “Chris Godwin runs all of our Dallas operations … and I felt really comfortable with doing that just because I knew how committed he was.”
Godwin’s commitment brought immediate returns and has continued to pay off here this week. Scott McGarrh, the head coach at Frisco (Texas) Liberty High School, has coached this Dodgers team each of the last three years and he’s obviously done a good job of pushing all the right buttons.
McGarrh told PG that most of the guys on this Dodgers’ roster attend Texas high schools with quality baseball programs and they’re given the opportunity to face quality competition all spring during their high schools seasons (that didn’t happen this past spring, of course, due to ongoing coronavirus pandemic).
But the Dulins Dodgers program was able to conduct winter workouts in January and without exception, McGarrh said., every one of these guys showed up and got after it before everything was shutdown.
“There’s no prima donnas, there’s nobody skipping it,” McGarrh said. “They all show up, they all do their job and when we start in May, they show up every day and they’re ready to work.”
The roster has its share of highly ranked top prospects, including 2023 first baseman/left-hander Matthew Ossenfort, the No. 40-ranked overall prospect in his class, and 2022 outfielder/middle-infielder Dakota Jordan, ranked No. 89 overall in his class.
Lefthander Griffin Herring (LSU commit, No. 134), middle-infielder/righthander Cade McGarrh (Texas Tech, No. 205), first baseman/lefthander Lincoln Sheffield (Mississippi St., No. 272), outfielder/utility Brenner Cox (Texas, No. 438), catcher/first baseman Easton Carmichael (Oklahoma, top-500) and righthander/middle-infielder Adam Eschler (top-500) are other prominent members of the 2022 class.
2022 outfielder/third baseman Trent Rucker is currently unranked but has emerged as a key contributor on this team. He hit a solo home run and a single in the Dodgers’ 2-0 win over Power Baseball 2022 in their second game of pool-play and feels especially blessed to be a part of this group.
“Everybody on our team, we’re all confident and we all rely on each other, no matter what,” he told PG on Tuesday. “If one person goes down we know that another person is going to pick us up; we all have trust in each other.”
Rucker has an interesting story to tell. He was not a part of the Dodgers team that won the 14U World Series in 2018 because he had been moved down to the No. 2 team in the Texas program. He knew he would have to put in a lot of extra work to regain his position on the top team so he put his nose to the grindstone and the pedal to the metal.
“I just showed-out; I wanted to be back where I felt like I needed to be,” Rucker said. “I got invited back to be on the (15U WS team) last year and I worked my way up to the 2-hole in the lineup. That was very important for me in getting my confidence back to where it needed to be.”
It seems as if everyone took their turn as a key contributor during the electric run through pool-play the last four days, especially the pitchers. The Dodgers got past the FTB/SF Giants Scout Team 2022 by a 2-0 count in their opener behind 2021 righty Jason Burger’s 5 1/3 innings of five-hit, shutout ball with six strikeouts.
2022 righty Ryan Marquez allowed only one hit and no runs in 4 2/3 innings of work in a 7-1 win over Knights Baseball 16U Platinum, and Sheffield and Eschler combined on a five-hitter in the 2-0 win over Power Baseball 2022, the game in which Rucker homered.
Herring, the LSU commit, was pretty darn good on Monday, allowing three runs on four hits with seven strikeouts in Dulins’ 5-3 win over the Team Elite 16U Scout Team, a victory that essentially clinched the pool championship for the Dodgers.
On Tuesday, 2022 right-hander Coy Defury was called-in in relief of Ossenfort in the second inning and threw 4 1/3 innings of three-hit shutout ball, striking out seven. The bats came alive for the Dodgers in that one with Eschler delivering a single, double and an RBI, Jaxon Haynes two singles and a run batted in and Carmichael a single and an RBI; Kevin Duran doubled twice and scored a run.
“We have pitched very effectively,” McGarrh said. “We have a lot of kids that are struggling at the plate right now … but they’ve all finding other ways to contribute. For the most part we have pitched and played really good defense, and as a high school coach, that’s what I preach.
“If you pitch and play defense you give yourself a chance. We can bunt, we can hit-and-run, we can get first-to-third, we can squeeze. We can manufacture some runs.”
And, again, it’s important to remember that these guys, despite playing in the 16U age-group, have been on this big stage before and never wilted under the pressure.
Carmichael, the Oklahoma commit from Prosper, Texas, was a member of both of the 14U and 15U Dodgers teams that won PG World Series national championships and has fond memories of both experiences.
The two tournaments played out in similar fashion, he recalled, in that the Dodgers didn’t play very well over the first few days only to turn it on late and piece together win after win. Once those tournaments were history, he was being fitted for PG national championship rings and is now in position to be fitted for a third.
“You get used to it,” Carmichael said of playing on the big stage. “We’ve always played really high-level baseball, really high-intensity baseball, and then with the team we have it comes natural to us. We’re a good team and we know how to play.”
Added Rucker: “It’s a completely different experience from Texas. You come out here and see all these new teams, the top of the top. But walking into this tournament and knowing the last two years how we’ve done, we definitely come in with a lot of confidence.”
Both Dulin and McGarrh spoke about the tremendous camaraderie the players on this team enjoy and McGarrh told PG that he had never had a group that genuinely loves one another as much as these guys do.
Dulin admires the “great job” his staff has done with creating and emphasizing the team concept and making sure the players all understand how the “team first” approach truly works. He pointed out that this group has spent the majority of their summers together over the last three years and he, too, gets the sense they genuinely care about one another.
“Scott McGarrh has had this club for the last three years and he’s done a great job,” Dulin said. “It’s just been a lot of fun watching these kids mature … and it’s a really, really good club; they’ve had a great season already.”
Things were brought to a standstill at the 16U WS Tuesday afternoon due to a lengthy rain delay, but not for the Dulins Dodgers-McGarrh. They took care of their business early in the day and only had to wait longer than expected to learn their final seeding and their quarterfinal opponent.
Rucker had no doubt he and his teammates would be ready to go Wednesday morning:
“Being out here (before) and having that experience, we’re all used to the pressure and our team just getting on rolls; we like to keep that energy no matter what,” he said. “On or off the field, we’re the same. You’ll see us off the field interacting the same way we interact on the field.
“We know how to turn it on and turn it off. We can joke around here but when we know it’s time to play we turn it on and we just get running.”
McGarrh felt much the same way: “I like where we’re at right now and we’ll see where we end up and we’ll strap-it up and play whoever we have to play tomorrow. I like our chances; we’ve got a lot of arms ready to go to tomorrow.”