Three Orange County high school baseball teams will be in North Carolina this week to play in the National High School Invitational.
Huntington Beach, Orange Lutheran and Servite will compete against some of the nation’s best teams and players, and perhaps get a look at a few of the college campuses in the area and maybe sample Carolina barbecue.
And, as Huntington Beach coach Benji Medure put it, “keep that mystique going that California baseball is the best.”
The National High School Invitational, a 16-team tournament, debuted in 2012. COVID-19 knocked the NHSI off of the schedule in 2020 and ’21. Orange County teams have won the NHSI championship in seven of the tournament’s eight years. Orange Lutheran won it three times (2017-19), Huntington Beach won it in 2016, San Clemente in 2015 and Mater Dei in 2012 and ’13.
Dana Hills lost to Huntington Beach in the 2016 final. CIF Southern Section teams Harvard-Westlake and Chaminade have been NHSI runner-up. Harvard-Weslake lost to Orange Lutheran in the 2018 and ’19 championship games.
Among the current MLB players who have played in the NHSI are Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers, Atlanta Braves pitcher Max Fried and New York Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo. Royce Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, played in the tournament with JSerra.
Orange Lutheran coach Eric Borba said he will never turn down an opportunity to send a team to the tournament, which is played at the USA Baseball complex in Cary, NC.
“It’s a great experience for our kids,” Borba said. “You play against the best teams in the country and the best players in the country, and you’re playing in front of just about every MLB scouting director.”
USA Baseball will live-stream the games, mostly at usabaseball.com with some at MLB.com.
Orange Lutheran (15-2), No. 1 in the Orange County top 25 and in CIF Southern Section Division 1, has nearly a dozen players who have signed or committed to colleges. The list includes the coach’s son, Casey Borba, a junior first baseman who has a team-leading 12 RBIs. Casey has committed to Texas.
The Lancers also feature senior left-handed pitcher Oliver Santos, who has signed with Duke. He is 4-0 with a 0.48 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 29.1 innings.
Orange County’s No. 2 ranked team, Huntington Beach (12-4), has senior lefty Ben Jacobs, a UCLA signee, and Arizona State-committed junior shortstop Ralph Velasquez.
Servite (8-6), ranked No. 6 in O.C., has plenty of college-bound players, including UCLA signees Chris Grothues, a senior left-handed pitcher, and senior outfielder Jarrod Hocking.
Orange Lutheran worked out at North Carolina’s baseball facility Tuesday morning. Huntington Beach hopes to work in a stop at Wake Forest. The focus, though, remains on the top level of competition the NHSI provides.
“It’s one of the more prestigious tournaments in the country,” Medure said. “You get to play the best teams from every state that has a team there.”
Ryan Lemmon tournament
The 30-team Ryan Lemmon Baseball Series tournament began Saturday. The tournament championship game is Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the baseball stadium at the Great Park, where other tournament games will be played throughout the day.
Orange County boys athlete of the week: Austin Overn, Foothill
CIF-SS baseball polls, April 4
Orange County baseball top 25, April 4
Orange County baseball standings: Saturday, April 2
Mater Dei baseball rallies to beat Santa Margarita as Jack Kirrer strikes out 13
The teams in the championship game will be based on the best tournament records and fewest runs allowed in the tournament. If there are ties for the final spots, then head-to-head results will be examined followed by best results against common opponents.
The tournament, a fundraiser for the Ryan Lemmon Foundation, charges $10 for adults and $5 for others.
The National Classic semifinals are Wednesday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. at El Dorado High, and the championship game is Thursday at 7 p.m. at Amerige Park in Fullerton.