Dozens of pro baseball scouts were on hand Thursday to watch Cathedral Catholic pitcher Stephen Gonsalves and Madison pitcher Ian Clarkin.
It was billed as the “Game of the Year” in San Diego County, a matchup of Team USA left-handers and possible first-round draft picks Ian Clarkin of Madison and Stephen Gonsalves of Cathedral Catholic.
And the seniors, who have signed to play at USD, didn’t disappoint the more than 50 major league scouts gathered Thursday afternoon at Cathedral.
Gonsalves and the Dons prevailed in the City Conference Tournament battle 4-1. Yet both pitchers left an impression.
Gonsalves allowed three hits over six innings, using his 88-90 mph fastball to register six strikeouts while walking one.
Clarkin’s fastball was clocked at 90-93 mph, while working 4?1/3 innings. He allowed four runs on eight hits but struck out seven to run his season total to 33 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings.
“That’s exactly what you would expect from first-round draft picks,” said Madison coach Robert Lovato, who lifted Clarkin in the fifth inning after he hit his 90-pitch limit. “Both guys were very good. Both guys have been around, both have pitched in pressure games, pitched in front of the scouts. I don’t think either guy felt the pressure.”
Both, however, said they wanted to beat the other and win the game.
The lefties are best of friends, spending most of the summer together on the all-star circuit.
“It’s crazy how close we are,” Clarkin said.
And both got to hit against the other Thursday with Gonsalves banging a single and double off Clarkin while Clarkin went 1-for-3 against Gonsalves.
“Now I see what hitters see when they face me,” Gonsalves said of his three at-bats against Clarkin. “He’s a power pitcher with a great curve and fastball. And he controls the strike zone.”
Clarkin said he appreciated Gonsalves more after facing him as a hitter.
“We have the same approach to go after the hitters,” Clarkin said. “I get more strikeouts, and that drives my pitch count up and gets me out of games sooner. Stephen gets more ground balls and stays in games longer.
“We were both looking forward to this. There was a lot of friendly texting going on before the game.
“Having all the scouts here was truly a blessing. It’s special. Having the attention on you is special. But I’m frustrated because we came up short. The game is a team thing, so I take the loss to heart.”
The loss drops Madison to 4-4 while Cathedral Catholic, ranked No. 2 in San Diego, improved to 7-1. The only loss came to top-ranked Granite Hills.
“This was a great atmosphere,” said Cathedral coach Gary Remiker. “It’s rare when you get a pitching matchup like this. That’s what generated the buzz.
“The hype was definitely warranted.”
Cathedral scored two runs in the third on RBI singles by Brady Aiken and Hayden Grant.
The Dons knocked Clarkin out the of game in the fifth with Aiken’s sacrifice fly scoring one and the
second scoring on a fielder’s choice on a double-steal attempt.
“Both pitchers have been in big games,” Remiker said. “I think they handled the stress very well.
“Ian Clarkin is the best pitcher we’ve faced and probably the best pitcher we will face.”
How good is he?
“He reminds me a lot of Cole Hamels,” Remiker said.