NorCal team takes momentum into AEBC semifinals

CARY, N.C. -- The American Elite Baseball Championship started with 16 teams and more than 240 players. On Saturday, just four teams will still be competing for a spot in the championship game, with only 12 players coming away with a roster spot on the 14U development program.

Of those teams, Northern California is still going strong with a spot in the semifinals. Much of that success can be attributed to two USA Baseball players: Daulton Jefferies and Jonathan Cymrot.

NorCal is led by Adam Farb, who has brought several teams to Cary for National Team Identification Series tournaments. And he has one of his former players, Jefferies, helping to lead the way as an assistant coach.

"Jefferies was actually at the NTIS with us the first year that it was held in Cary," Farb said. "So he knows the level of pressure these guys are playing under. ... We've tried to build an extended family through these tournaments. So having someone that has been through it, and can give back, is extremely valuable."

Farb has used his relationship with current and former players to build that family atmosphere with his current core of players. While they develop the players all year long, Jefferies said it's hard to replicate what the AEBC and other NTIS events provide.

"This tournament provides a lot of self-development for players," Jefferies said. "Some kids will learn how to figure it out by themselves and it really gives perspective, for sure, playing against the best guys. USA Baseball allows you to grow and humbles you as a player."

Jefferies should know. The rising junior at UC Berkeley played for USA Baseball's 15U team after playing for NorCal. He's now one of the best college pitchers in the country, recently finishing his tenure on the Collegiate National Team with a 1-1 record and a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings, allowing only four hits.

The Cal ace is resting his arm after an extended summer season to help groom some of USA Baseball's next great players. One of those stars for NorCal is Jonathan Cymrot, who played for the 12U National Team last summer.

"He's very good at slowing the game down," Jefferies said of Cymrot. "We're just working with him on focusing on himself and not really worrying about who's in the stands. He's playing against the game, not necessarily the opponent."

Cymrot has made a difference with his bat, teeing off on a pitch for a home run in the opener. But where Jefferies has helped Cymrot improve is on the rubber this summer.

"It helps a lot to have really good coaches who know what they're doing," Cymrot said. "Daulton's given me so much help with pitching and hitting, but he's really helped me with the mental side on the mound. It's the little things that he knows that help me as a player."

The NorCal team continues to roll with Cymrot at the forefront, but it's taken a team effort to make its way to the semifinals. A 16-3 rout of Southwest was followed by a 7-6 win over Mid-Atlantic. The offense then turned it on again with a 13-1 victory over Ohio Valley to clinch a berth in the semis.

But there's a daunting task ahead with North Texas looming on Saturday afternoon. The team from the Lone Star State also finished 3-0, taking down Southern California to seal its spot.

When the two teams clash on Saturday, the field will be whittled down yet again. With just two games standing in its way, NorCal is hoping that having experience and a wealth of success on its side will be the difference. 

R. Cory Smith is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.