More than 300 teams representing 12 states and Canada are expected to compete in the Buckeye Elite Showcase Tournament that runs Thursday, July 13, through Sunday, July 16, at numerous venues throughout central Ohio as well as other locations outside the area.
“This is one of the biggest tournaments on the entire East Coast,” said Jeff Dutiel, the chief financial officer for the tournament. “We will play 750 games in four days on about 70 fields throughout central Ohio. When we started this event, we didn’t realize it would get this big. But the truth is, it could get bigger yet, but we have an umpire shortage.
“I don’t know if people realize how big this is. We will have a $96,000 umpiring fee this year. We estimate having our teams and their families and friends using 4,400 to 4,700 hotel-room nights during the event. It’s been a few years, but the (Columbus Chamber of Commerce) told us about five years ago that this event has a substantial impact on the area economy.”
The 305-team tournament is divided into four divisions: 14-and-under, 15U, 16U and 18U. There are 36 teams in the 14U division, 84 in 15U, 100 in 16U and 85 in 18U. According to Dutiel, there are 83 teams on a waiting list for next year’s event.
“We have tried to organize the fields within certain geographic locations, meaning that we don’t want one team playing in Zanesville and also on the west side of Columbus,” Dutiel said. “We try to keep them limited in their travel destinations.”
Among the area high schools that will play host to games are Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Central Crossing, Delaware, DeSales, Dublin Coffman, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Gahanna, Grove City, Grove City Christian, Hartley, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Davidson, Marysville, New Albany, Newark, Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty, Olentangy Orange, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North, Reynoldsburg, St. Charles, Thomas Worthington, Watterson, Westerville Central, Westerville North, Westerville South, Whetstone, Worthington Christian and Worthington Kilbourne.
Seven colleges – Capital, Denison, Mount Vernon Nazarene, Ohio Dominican, Ohio State, Ohio Wesleyan and Otterbein – also will play host to games, as will venues in Ashley, Ashville, Oxford, Prospect and Zanesville.
The event began with a skills showcase July 12 at Liberty, as 140 athletes were invited to test their abilities in front of college coaches and pro scouts.
“This is such a well-run showcase event,” said Drew Kirby, who coaches the Ohio Elite 18U team that finished second in the tournament last season. “What I like about our team this season is that all but one player on the team has already made a college commitment, so they aren’t playing for stats or scholarships. They’re playing the game the right way, and it’s a selfless group that will bunt or do the things we need to do to win.
“We got off to a bit of a slow start (this season) and we had pitcher-only players playing defensive positions due to all-star games, graduation, graduation open houses and things like that. We’re just starting to get everyone together and we’re about ready to start rolling. We have tremendous talent.”
No Ohio Elite 18U players were invited to participate in the skills showcase. However, they and other non-invitees still could be spotted by college coaches and pro scouts.
“We will have college coaches and scouts throughout the tournament, not just for the (players) who were invited to try out,” Dutiel said. “Our biggest thing is to get the kids looks for colleges. That’s what a showcase event does.
“Another neat thing about the tournament is that everyone has a chance to play for a championship because the teams are divided up after pool play based on records. So you’re not going to come here, lose three games and be done.”
All championship games will be played on July 16. For the 15U, 16U and 18U divisions, the winners of each pool will advance to single-elimination play in the platinum bracket. Those championship games will be played at Ohio State’s Bill Davis Stadium.
The second-place teams in each pool will compete in the gold bracket, with the title games being played at Liberty. The third-place teams in each pool will compete in the silver bracket, with the title games being played at Otterbein, and the fourth-place teams in each pool will compete in the bronze bracket, with the title games being played at Pickerington North.
In the 14U division, the platinum championship game will be at Ohio State, while the gold, silver and bronze title games will be at Don Edwards Park in Newark.
Ohio Elite 18U, one of approximately 18 central Ohio teams in the 18U field, has just one player who did not graduate this spring. Highlighting the roster are two Gahanna graduates in Cael Baker (C/1B), the two-time Division I state Player of the Year and a University of Cincinnati commit, and Jackson Wolf, a 6-foot-7 left-handed pitcher and West Virginia commit.
Others on the roster are Olentangy’s Collin Mathews (INF/OF), who has committed to Kent State; New Albany’s Brandon DeHass (C/1B), who is an Eastern Kentucky commit; and three Marshall commits in Jerome’s Sam Wilson (RHP/INF), Thornville Sheridan’s Dylan Dupler (LHP) and Jonathan Alder’s Preston Eisnaugle (INF).
The roster also includes players from Columbus Academy, Marysville, Upper Arlington and Watterson.