Canes National 17U consistently brings together some of the best pitchers in the country into one dugout to form a staff full of future college and professional talent. This year is no different as 17 pitchers from across the country will look to dominate the opposition and lead us to multiple championships this summer.
Many of our pitchers return from a team that has won each of the last three World Wood Bat Association Championships for their age groups. But we also added a few new arms to supplement an already incredible staff made up of a nice balance of power arms and strike-throwers.
As we count down the weeks to the start of the summer, which will begin in Georgia on June 10, let’s get to know the members of our pitching staff.
One of the bright new arms joining us for the first summer is right-hander Brock Porter (Milford, Mich.), who is committed to play his college baseball at Clemson University. The mid-90s righty did play with us in Fort Myers last fall, which prompted him to make the change to a Canes uniform full time this year.
“I pitched the first game in Fort Myers and all of the guys had my back even though it was my first game with them. It was one of the best games I pitched all year and it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had,” Porter said. “I wanted to join the Canes because of how well known they are as a program. This team is something special. I’m extremely excited to play with the talent that is on this team and be around the guys who are very close knit.”
Another one of our full-time newcomers is right-hander Ryan Kennedy (Manassas, Va.), but he also has experience in a Canes uniform. He played some in the fall last year with both the American and National teams. Kennedy is committed to play his college baseball at Virginia Tech.
“There is nothing better than playing baseball and having fun with your boys and I am really looking forward to building relationships that will last a lifetime,” Kennedy said. “The thing that made me want to join Canes the most was the level of talent everyone had. When you play and hang around the best players in the nation, you are bound to learn and get better from them. Also, when all you see on the internet is them winning then why not try to join them.”
One of the top pitchers in the country is back for his third season with the Canes. Left-hander Jackson Ferris (Mount Airy, N.C.), who is committed to Ole Miss, was a key part in winning last year’s WWBA National Championship.
“I am looking forward to this being my senior year summer and my last summer and getting to spend it with great players who will help me get better,” Ferris said.
Left-handed pitcher Trey Wheeler (Indialantic, Fla.) began his 2020 summer with the Canes American 16U squad but finished it playing with both the American and National 17U teams. Wheeler, who is committed to South Carolina, is a strike thrower adept at getting ground balls along with some swings and misses with his plus changeup.
“I’m looking forward to competing with the best. Every tournament we play in this summer is loaded with the best teams in the nation,” Wheeler said. “One thing I’ve learned with the Canes is the level I have to be at to be the best. Constantly playing with and competing against good players shows me not only where I’m at currently with my game but also what I have to do be better than I was before.”
One of our aces is right-hander Evan Siary (Landrum, S.C.), who is entering his fourth season with the Canes. The Mississippi State commitment featured with the 16U National team last season, but also played up with the 17U at times last year as well. He won championship rings with our 16U team and also our 17U American squad.
“Being with the Canes has helped me develop my pitching game as well as become an all-around better player, teammate and person on and off the field,” Siary said. “My favorite memory with the Canes was winning the 2020 17U WWBA because the journey to get to the championship game was tough. We had to face tough competition to win it all.”
Right-handed pitcher Kaden Varela Payne (Wake Forest, N.C.) joined the Canes as a member of the 15U team and has pitched in some of our biggest games. An uncommitted prospect at this time, Varela Payne brings his low-90s fastball and plus secondary pitches back to our staff this summer as he looks to earn another ring.
“My favorite moment with the Canes was winning our second WWBA Championship because my older brother Jordan was there to watch,” Varela Payne said. “The Canes has helped me by being surrounded by amazing talent I have worked harder and strived for excellence on and off the field.”
Another one of our new arms for the summer is right-handed pitcher Tyler Gough (Perris, Calif.), who played with our Prospects team in Fort Myers last fall. The mid-90s righty has a connection with our strength and conditioning coach, Josh Reidt, and he will make the trip from California for our summer schedule.
“I’ve heard about Canes baseball for a long time now and I’ve known that it’s been one of the top organizations in the country,” Gough said. “As I got older and my tools developed, I thought that I might have a chance to join. Seeing the team dog piling and kicking butt really motivated me to get better and when I did, I wanted to find any little way to get on that team. My advisor and Josh Reidt made my dream came true and I was able to experience just a little of what this organization is about and ever since then I have been anxiously waited to play with the guys again.”
Power left-hander Tristan Smith (Boiling Springs, S.C.) has made a name for himself nationally as a mid-90s arm with a tight slider. A commitment to Clemson University, one of two on our pitching staff, Tristan Smith is entering his fourth season with the Canes. Like Siary, he won two WWBA Championships last year as well.
“My most memorable experiences with the Canes were winning back-to-back WWBA championships on the 17U American team and the 16U National team,” Tristan Smith said. “The Canes’ organization makes sure that we are mentally and physically prepared for our season. The players and the coaches were very dedicated to making sure that we worked and played together as a team. The atmosphere is right. I knew this was the group that I wanted to play with to help me develop as a player.”
We have two Smiths on the roster, and they happen to be twin brothers. Left-hander Ashton Smith (Boiling Springs, S.C.) is a key arm out of our bullpen and has been since he made his first appearance with the Canes as a member of our 14U team. A commitment to the University of Georgia, Ashton Smith has four WWBA rings to his credit as well.
“I’m looking forward to learning more about the game and seeing all my teammates and I’m really excited to compete with Coach Petty,” Ashton Smith said. “The Canes have taught me to be patent and trust the process and the pitching coaches have been really helpful with that. I always knew the Canes was the best of the best and I knew I could get to showcase skills on biggest stage while being surrounded by good people who care about your future.”
Left-handed pitcher JD Thompson (Rusk, Texas) spent last fall playing with the Canes but this will be his first summer. Thompson, who is not committed at this time, threw five shutout innings with 10 strikeouts in the round of eight in Fort Myers last fall.
“Playing for the Canes is definitely something I’ve wanted to do for a while,” Thompson said. “The best part of playing for the Canes is the atmosphere, for sure. Being a part of the Canes, I know I’m going to get to play in some big games and play with some of the best high schoolers in the country. Surrounding myself with high caliber teammates and coaches will end up making me a better player in the long run.”
Back with the Canes for his second season, left-handed pitcher Samuel Boyle (Vancouver, Wash.) is one of two players from the farthest corner of the country on our roster. A commitment to Washington, Boyle has an upper 80s fastball and solid changeup that will help him get some big outs for our National team this summer.
“Canes Baseball has helped me develop into a better player by being around good competition,” Boyle said. “What I’m most excited for this season is playing with all the boys and running some teams. I’m also pumped up to pitch with the loaded defense behind me. Most importantly, I can’t wait for all the new memories that I will make this year.”
Right-handed pitcher Toran O’Harran (Rocklin, Calif.) is another one of our Pacific Coast arms that will bring low 90s velocity to the mound this summer. Playing for his second year with the organization, O’Harran says some of the most memorable moments from his time wearing the uniform are when he’s bonding with his teammates. The Stanford commitment has some big moments on the field, too, though.
“I’m looking forward most to getting back on the mound but also representing such an amazing program that has been built by so many great players. That feeling of stepping on the field with the Canes uniform on is like no other,” O’Harran said. “My most memorable moment over the past year playing with the Canes was the everyday talks on the bench with the team. As a pitcher on days you don’t throw, the company of other POs is always nice to keep the dugout mood light, but also focused on cheering on our teammates.”
One of our long-time players is right-hander Matthew Matthijs (Greenville, N.C.), who will wear the Canes uniform for his fifth straight summer. The North Carolina commitment says winning the WWBA Championship last year was his favorite memory with the Canes.
“Canes has made me a much better player by having the best coaches in the country and also playing with and against the best players in the country,” Matthijs said. “This year I’m looking forward to seeing some guys that I have not seen in a while and also meeting the new guys. I am especially looking forward to the WWBA this year and trying to win it for the fourth time in a row.”
Joining Boyle from the Evergreen State is right-handed pitcher Ian Ritchie Jr. (Bainbridge Island, Wash.), who we know as JR. A power-armed right-hander who is considered one of the top pitchers in the country, he featured on the mound for the 17U American WWBA Championship team last year as well as the 16U Championship team the week before. Ritchie is committed to play his college baseball at UCLA.
“My most memorable moment would have to be winning the WWBA with the 16U National team because it was my first time playing with them and I got to make friendships that are still close today,” Ritchie said. “I’m looking forward to winning a few championships this year. We have a really talented and special team this year, including one of the best pitching staffs I have ever been around. I’m excited to see what we can do!”
Making his full debut for the Canes organization this summer is right-handed pitcher Jacob Miller (Baltimore, Ohio). A commitment to the University of Louisville, Miller has a fastball that will reach into the mid-90s but he also has great feel for his 12-6 curve ball as well.
“I wanted to join the Canes because they offer what other programs don’t,” Miller said. “From the development standpoint it’s phenomenal. The atmosphere is unmatched and Canes is also preparing us better than anybody else for the next level whether it’s pro ball or college ball by the way the organization is run and the routine they have us on.”
Getting ready for his first summer with the Canes is right-hander Luke Schmolke (Mooresville, N.C.), who played with our National team last fall. The quick bonds that the Georgia Tech commitment formed with the players on the roster is a big reason that he wanted to be back with the National 17U team for a full year.
“I’m looking forward to just seeing all my friends again and getting to spend my last summer ball days with them,” Schmolke said. “The most memorable moment I had was my first start with the Canes at Wilson Premier. I remember going into the dugout not knowing anyone and a couple hours after, I felt like I had been friends with them all my life.”
Right-handed pitcher Tyler Prystajko (Huntington Beach, Calif.) will put on the Canes uniform for the second consecutive summer. The Washington commitment’s favorite moment last year was the comeback victory over Tri-State Arsenal when the team was down to its last out in the WWBA Championships. The emotions in the dugout are something that he won’t forget, and he’s looking for more of those memories this summer.
“There are tons of things I’m looking forward to this summer. Living in California, I don’t get much opportunity to see the guys, so being able to compete with them will be an amazing experience. We’re an extremely deep, strong team, so consistently competing and dominating will be an amazing feeling,” Prystajko said. “Canes Baseball has put me in different environments so I can experience what it’s like in areas other than where I live. It’s cool getting to know guys from different areas. Second, Canes has put me in the most competitive environment of high school baseball in the country. The talent I got to face was off the charts.”
Our summer gets started on June 10 in the PBR National Team Invitational at the LakePoint Sports Complex in Emerson, Ga.