Fun, memories mark showcase of baseball skills

The score reflected a lopsided win for the other team, but the experience more than made up for it.

The Missouri squad at the PNC Bank High School Baseball Showcase lost 13-3 June 12 to the Illinois all-stars at Busch Stadium. The game, which featured all-stars from the St. Louis area, began at 9 p.m. after a nearly two-hour rain delay.

Several players from Catholic schools in the archdiocese turned in good performances. John Ceriotti of St. Louis University High School drove in runs in the seventh inning with a sharp base hit and made a couple of nice plays in the field at second base on grounders. Jake Hemphill of St. John Vianney High School and Glennon McCreery of Christian Brothers High School each pitched scoreless innings and Vianney's Mat Jones, a third baseman, helped Missouri get its first run after leading off the third inning with a hit and using good base-running skills to scoot around the bases.

"It's fun to come out here and play at Busch Stadium," Ceriotti said, who noted that his memories also will include competing with elite ballplayers from around the St. Louis area. Ceriotti, who played at SLUH two years after moving from Tennessee, said of his school, "I couldn't ask for anything better ... the team and Coach (Steve) Nicollerat did a really good job."

McCreery, who pointed out that he "loved every second" of his time at CBC, said "it's an awesome event that PNC developed here, to give kids exposure and an opportunity to play at Busch Stadium. It's a privilege."

Hemphill said he thought about the Major Leaguers who have been on the same pitcher's mound.

Jones compared being on the field to sitting in the president's office at the White House. He will miss his days at Vianney, he said. "Our team-bonding events and team chemistry got us so far. I'll never forget the quarterfinal game against Marquette, the walk-off and 'dog pile'" celebration at the plate when the winning run was scored on a wild pitch to end the game.

Chaminade outfielder Michael Schwarze pointed to pre-game activities, including a luncheon at the stadium and a skills competition afterward. He knew most of his teammates from playing against them over the years and was glad to get a chance to see them one more time.

The Illinois squad was managed by former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Danny Cox while the Missouri team's manager was former Cardinals pitcher Alan Benes. Benes said the players will "remember this the rest of their lives. ... I was never in this situation, but I would have loved it. I would have asked a lot of questions and had a great time."

Greg Vitello, retiring coach at De Smet Jesuit High School, helped Benes with coaching duties. The players especially enjoyed spending time with Benes, Vitello said, including hearing him recall spending time on plane trips learning the fine points of baseball from center fielder Willie McGee.

Edwardsville High's Austin Werner went 3-3 with a triple and three-RBI's for the Illinois all-stars.

Also invited to the game, presented by KMOX News Radio 1120 and other sponsors, were pitcher Tom Kalish of De Smet, third baseman Jake Burger of CBC and outfielders Nick Allgeyer of Vianney and Luke Robinson of St. Louis University High School.

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