CARY, N.C. -- With temperatures hovering around 50 degrees, it was difficult for any of the prospects on hand at the National High School Invitational to heat up, but that doesn't mean there weren't some standout performances at the first day of the tournament hosted by USA Baseball.
The best individual performance of the day may have come from a Class of 2014 prospect. Harvard-Westlake's Jack Flaherty, who pitched very well here in last year's NHSI, was at it again. Facing Eustis High School and top prospect Chris Okey (No. 45 on MLB.com's Top 50 Draft Prospects list), the junior right-hander tossed a complete game (they play seven innings here) three-hit shutout. Flaherty walked none and struck out 13 as Harvard-Westlake, last year's runner-up, won, 3-0.
Despite the loss, scouts were impressed with Okey, who went 1-for-2 at the plate and did a nice job working with lefty Alex Hagner, a Class of 2013 arm committed to the University of Florida. One of the many scouts keying in on Okey said, "He catches and throws well and he's a good line drive hitter."
Okey may have gotten the highest overall marks of all the catching prospects in Cary on Wednesday. Nick Ciuffo also played well, driving in a run and throwing out a runner, for Lexington, but there might be some debate among scouts over who is the better all-around backstop.
"He's bigger and more physical than Okey, but Okey is the more advanced one as far as catching," the scout said.
Mater Dei's Jeremy Martinez, who can call the USA Baseball facility a second home of sorts -- given the amount of time he's spent playing for the national team and in last year's NHSI -- went 2-for-4 as Mater Dei beat 2014 prospect Justus Sheffield and Tullahoma High School, 11-4. Mater Dei won this tournament last year. Martinez has always played well here, but he has struggled this spring. Perhaps a visit to Cary is just what the doctor ordered.
Even though the big Austin Meadows vs. Stephen Gonsalves matchup didn't provide major fireworks or results, at least one scout remained impressed with Meadows' toolset. The Grayson (Ga.) center fielder went 1-for-2, doubling off Gonsalves after getting hit by a pitch and walking against the Cathedral Catholic left-hander.
"He's going to go way up there," the scout said of Meadows. "He has very good tools and they all have projection. He can be more aggressive at the plate, but he's the best prospect at this tournament and he looked like it because of his tools."
A couple of other noteworthy performers:
• Milton High School's Dylan Cease, a 2014 prospect, was 92-94 mph, touching 95 mph, with an average breaking ball, during his two innings of work.
• Bingham High School's top player might be Brennon Lund, and the leadoff hitter went 1-for-3 with three runs scored and a stolen base. But right-hander Chase Tavonatti may have stolen the show by pitching shutout ball against T.C. Roberson.
• Lexington's Josh Reagan, throwing to Ciuffo, tossed a shutout against Florida Christian. The South Carolina recruit gave up just four hits and a walk while striking out five.