Canes National 17U will once again feature some of the top players in the country from coast to coast. From small town South Carolina to the beautiful Pacific Coast of California, the Canes will put a highly-competitive and highly-skilled roster of players on the diamond for five tournaments this summer.
All but two position players on the roster this summer have experience in a Canes uniform, which means they are used to winning. This team has run the gauntlet that is the World Wood Bat Association Championship each of the last three seasons and will look to make it a clean sweep for their careers in Emerson, Ga. the first week of July.
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 position players.
While he hasn’t been on the field with this group of players before, corner infielder Cole Messina (Summerville, S.C.) is set to become the first player since current Minnesota Twins outfielder Jake Cave to play on the top 17U Canes team for three years. Messina, who will join the South Carolina baseball program this fall as a member of the 2021 recruiting class, was a key cog in the middle of the order last season featuring primarily at catcher and third base.
“It means the world to be able to come back and play for such an amazing organization,” Messina said. “Everyone involved with the Canes has played a huge role in my baseball career and I can’t thank them enough. I’m looking forward to having a great summer for the third time!”
Another slugger projected in the middle of the order is first baseman Xavier Isaac (Kernersville, N.C.), who is back for his third summer with the Canes. The physical, left-handed power hitter says playing for the Canes, specifically Coach Beverly, has helped him become a better hitter against left-handed pitchers. Isaac is committed to the Florida Gators.
“The most memorable moment playing with the Canes is when we won the WWBA the first year on Canes because I had never won a WWBA championship,” Isaac said. “I’m looking forward to playing with my boys, having a fun time and winning every tournament we play in.”
One of the newest faces on the roster is catcher Malcolm Moore (Sacramento, Calif.), who is committed to Stanford. A left-handed hitter, Moore joined the organization last fall and made the trip to Fort Myers, Fla. It was a memorable experience for the sweet-swinging catcher, who helped the team advance to the final four.
“This summer I am most looking forward to playing with some of the best guys in the country on and off the field. In just one tournament last year I really felt a camaraderie between the guys and I’m very excited to renew that and win with them again,” Moore said. “I definitely took notice of Canes through all the tournaments they would win, and the one thing I liked the most about watching them was how much fun they were having. I’m looking forward to the relationships with my teammates, and balling out on the big stage.”
One of the players teaming up with Moore behind the plate is catcher and corner infielder Lamar King Jr. (Perry Hall, Md.), who is playing his fourth summer with the Canes. King was a key part of the WWBA championships won each summer and those rings highlight his experience with the organization. The right-handed hitter with a powerful 6-foot-3, 215-pound build is not currently committed.
“My favorite memory is winning the WWBA three years in a row because I had a lot of fun winning and had a good time playing with my friends,” King said. “The Canes have helped me develop as a person because it’s made me mature as a person and a player. Also, it helped my overall game because we get to play with and against the top guys. I also got to learn a lot from all the coaches that have been here the past three years.”
Also joining the ranks behind the plate is catcher and outfielder AJ Shepard (Manassas, Va.), who is committed to Indiana. The first summer that Shepard joined the organization, the Canes started rattling off WWBA Championships. He’s looking forward to one final go with his teammates this summer and an opportunity to win one more big tournament at LakePoint.
“This summer, I’m looking forward to enjoying the last ride with a great group of guys that all have the same mindset as me,” Shepard said. “The first championship was my first experience winning a big tournament. In 15U WWBA, we faced a lot of adversity and still came out on top, which made it so much better. Last year’s WWBA, we were one out away from being eliminated in the playoffs and were able to win the game and later win the tournament.”
Patrolling centerfield for us in most games will be Paxton Kling (Roaring Spring, Pa.), who is back for his second season with the Canes. One of the fastest players in the country, the LSU pledge was looking for a place to compete at the highest level. He found that with the Canes, and will be a fixture near the top of the batting order this summer.
“I am looking forward to competing at a high level for the second year,” Kling said. “The Canes have helped me develop into a better player by getting to play at high-level events. Last year I came into the first tournament with them and didn’t do well at the beginning but then I became comfortable and started to play well and it helped me face failure and overcome it.”
Another one of our three-time ring-winners is outfielder Nathan Fink (Charlottesville, Va.), who can also compete on the mound for us some as well. This will be Fink’s fourth summer with the Canes and his right-handed power bat will typically shine in the middle of the order. Fink is committed to his hometown school of Virginia and even though he didn’t have far to go, the Canes helped him get there.
“This summer I look forward to being around all the guys again,” Fink said. “Dan Gitzen and Damon Alvis have done an unbelievable job picking great players but also amazing people. Canes has done an amazing job helping me become the best player on and off the field, from life lessons to becoming the best I can be on the field. I will forever be grateful for all they have done.”
Back for his second straight season with the 17U National team is outfielder and first baseman Ryan Clifford (Raleigh, N.C.), who has been with the organization now for six total seasons. A recent commitment to Vanderbilt, Clifford has great tools but is also one of the most intuitive and instinctual players to ever put on our uniform.
“One of my best memories with the Canes was going to Jupiter and getting to compete with guys who strived to win. It was great facing good teams and dogging it out with my guys by my side. I’ve had lots of great memories with the Canes, but this sticks out,” Clifford said. “The Canes has helped me a lot with the mental side to baseball and approaches as competition starts to get better. Coaches are able to help each player individually. In the end we all play as a team and we play to win and it creates a great environment to be around.”
Outfielder Roman Anthony (North Palm Beach, Fla.) is a physical, 6-foot-3, 195-pound specimen who is also a plus runner. An Ole Miss commitment, he’s back for his fourth season with the Canes hoping for a ring to on nearly every finger on one hand. While those on-field championships are special, so are the off-the-field moments with the rest of his teammates.
“I am also looking forward to playing around these guys because when you surround yourself with the best, it makes you become a better player which is what I’ve learned the last couple summers,” Anthony said. “There have been many amazing moments. We’ve won the WWBA three years in a row but what’s even better is the memories we make hanging off the field as a team in the hotels and restaurants. We’ve won many tournaments, which is amazing, but the way we bond with each other during these tournaments is awesome.”
Another outfielder who is back for his second year in the program is Vincent Fattore (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.), who is committed to play his college baseball at Duke. Fattore has great speed and a big arm from the outfield along with the ability to hit some screamers off the bat.
“The atmosphere around the guys and the coaches has undoubtedly been the most competitive and enjoyable playing environment I’ve ever been a part of,” Fattore said. “In the time I’ve been with the canes I’ve faced some great competition which has helped develop me into a tougher player. I’m looking forward to getting back on the field with my brothers and winning some more championships.”
One hitter who will see his first action with the Canes is infielder Joe Brown (Petaluma, Calif.), who is one of two position players from California. Brown, who is committed to play baseball for the Cal Golden Bears, could really play anywhere on the diamond.
Featuring in the middle infield is David Mershon (Taylors, S.C.), who brings his switch-hitting stick back to the Canes organization for the third summer. Mershon, a Mississippi State commitment, scored the game-tying run on a heads-up base running play to keep us from being eliminated in the 16U WWBA Championships last summer.
“I’m looking forward to playing alongside all these really good players and winning a lot,” Mershon said. “My time with the Canes has been really cool because I’ve gotten to play with the best players in the country and it helps me challenge myself and realize where I need to be as a player. My teammates are always helping me get better, and I hope I’m doing that for them also.”
Rounding out our roster of remarkable position players is infielder Cole Young (Wexford, Pa.), who will slide into the starting lineup most days at shortstop and hit somewhere near the top of the order. The left-handed hitter is back for his third season with the Canes.
“I just want to have fun and compete, and obviously win a national championship,” Young said. “The Canes have a bunch of great players and it helps me a lot to be around them. That’s one of the biggest things. The competition we face, we face everyone’s ace, helps make me a better player.”
Our summer gets started on June 10 in the PBR National Team Invitational at the LakePoint Sports Complex in Emerson, Ga.