Widely regarded as the premier high school baseball tournament in the country, USA Baseball's National High School Baseball Invitational, presented by the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance and the Town of Cary, enters its eighth year in 2019. In its seven previous years, the tournament has had it all exciting finishes, upsets, repeat champions; but, most importantly, sportsmanship and excitement about the game of baseball is at the forefront of the experience.
As we look to the future of the 2019 tournament, it is also important that we look to the past and celebrate what a great event the NHSI has become. We should celebrate the tournament that has seen MLB stars Joey Gallo and Cody Bellinger take the field for their respective high school teams, while also diving into the excellence that has been exhibited in the past seven years.
Mater Dei Monarchs - 2012
Mater Dei's (Santa Ana, Calif.) road to the inaugural championship game was perhaps one of the most challenging in the history of the tournament. To get to the final game, the Monarchs had to earn wins over the preseason-ranked number one and two ranked teams in the tournament. The daunting road to the championship began with national powerhouse Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) in the Round of 16. Mater Dei won the contest in convincing fashion 10-3 and after a 12-0 win over Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas), the Monarchs found themselves in a semifinal matchup with Sarasota (Sarasota, Fla). In the semifinal, the battle-tested Monarchs topped Sarasota, 5-1, to set up a matchup with their regional-rivals Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.).
In the championship game, the Monarchs fell behind 2-0 early, but a solo home run in the fourth cut the lead to one. Down one with one out remaining, Mater Dei tied the game with another solo homer to send the game into extra innings. In extras, the Monarchs loaded the bases before Ryan Barr hit an RBI-single to give Mater Dei the championship and the inaugural NHSI trophy.
Mater Dei Monarchs - 2013
Mater Dei returned to Cary in 2013 with hopes of a repeat run to the title. The Monarchs once again started off hot, dropping Tullahoma (Tullahoma, Tenn.) 11-4 in the Round of 16. In the quarterfinals, Mater Dei was locked into a pitcher's duel with Lexington High School (Lexington, S.C.) but came out on the right end with a 1-0 win to advance to face The Woodlands (The Woodlands, Texas) in the semifinals. Mater Dei bested the Highlanders, 11-2, to earn a matchup with Harvard-Westlake in the finals for the second consecutive year.
The Monarchs retained the NHSI crown with a 4-0 win over their rivals. Mater Dei's Jacob Erickson was solid on the mound, hurling a complete game shutout and striking out eight batters. The win marked the first time a team won back-to-back NHSI championships.
The First Academy Royals - 2014
With back-to-back champions Mater Dei not in the field for the 2014 NHSI, a new champion was to be crowned for the first time. The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.) saw its opportunity to bring the NHSI trophy to Florida for the first time, and it took full advantage. After besting Milton (Milton, Ga.) in the Round of 16, the Royals downed Dyer County (Newbern, Tenn.), 2-0, in the quarterfinals. The First Academy stepped up in the semifinals against Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.) to earn the win, 6-2. The win set up the Royals with a date in the championship game against Clovis (Clovis, Calif.), who was trying to take the trophy back to The Golden State for the third year in a row.
The First Academy found itself in an unfamiliar place in the sixth inning of the championship game, trailing 3-2. The Royals loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning before Chadwick Word slammed a bases-clearing double down the left field line to take the lead 5-3. Clovis tried to rally in the seventh but came up just short and The First Academy won the third annual NHSI. The First Academy remains the only team from to win the NHSI that was not from California.
San Clemente Tritons - 2015
San Clemente (San Clemente, Calif.) arrived in Cary for the first time in 2015 for the fourth-annual NHSI wanting to make an impression. That is exactly what it did, going a perfect 4-0 in their lone appearance in the tournament. The Tritons rolled through the tournament, defeating Lambert (Suwanee, Ga.) 7-5 in the Round of 16 before topping College Station (College, Station, Texas) in the quarterfinal and national powerhouse Huntington Beach (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 5-1, in the semifinal.
After the win over Huntington Beach, the Tritons faced another team from California in College Park (Pleasant Hills, Calif.). San Clemente opened the scoring in the second inning and never let up, pushing runs across the plate in every inning that followed to coast to an 8-3 win over College Park and claim the NHSI Trophy.
Huntington Beach Oilers - 2016
After the semifinal loss to San Clemente in 2015, Huntington Beach (Huntington Beach, Calif.) came back to the NHSI with a goal of making it to the championship game in 2016. The Oilers opened the tournament against Poly Prep (Brooklyn, N.Y.), earning an 8-5 victory to advance to the quarterfinals. Huntington Beach continued its road to redemption, topping Trinity Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.), 12-7, in the quarterfinals, and Allatoona (Acworth, Ga.), 3-1, in a close semifinal game to set up a matchup against in-state rival Chaminade Prep (West Hills, Calif.).
Huntington Beach fell behind early as Chaminade Prep scored in the top of the first, but the Oilers bounced back in the second, scoring four runs to take a 4-1 lead. After the second, Huntington Beach never looked back, adding three more insurance runs, to win the fifth-annual NHSI, 7-2.
Orange Lutheran Lancers - 2017
Orange Lutheran made its third appearance at the NHSI in 2017. The Lancers opened the tournament with a 7-3 win over Merritt Island (Merritt Island, Fla.) in the Round of 16, before taking down Trinity Christian Academy in the quarterfinals. Orange Lutheran would then top in-state foe South Hills (West Covina, Calif.), 5-3, to send them to their first-ever NHSI championship game.
The Lancers made the most of the opportunity as they took a familiar foe in Dana Hills (Dana Point, Calif.). Orange Lutheran would open scoring with two runs in the second, but Dana Hills responded with a pair of runs of its own to tie the game at two-apiece. With the bases loaded and the score still tied in the sixth inning, Orange Lutheran's Josiah Dixson came through with a pinch-hit sac fly to give the Lancers a 3-2 lead. The Lancers held on to capture their first NHSI championship.
Orange Lutheran Lancers - 2018
Orange Lutheran returned to Cary in 2018 with a goal to become the second team to repeat as NHSI champions. The Lancers started the 2018 tournament strong, shutting out their Round of 16 opponent, Florence (Florence, Ala.), 9-0. Orange Lutheran then faced tough tests from two Florida schools in George Jenkins (Lakeland, Fla.) in the quarterfinals and eventually Calvary Christian (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) in the semifinals. The Lancers won both games by one-run to advance to the championship game for the second straight year.
With back-to-back NHSI championships on the line, Orange Lutheran faced hometown Green Hope (Cary, N.C.) High School, whose campus is under two miles from the USA Baseball National Training Complex. The game was a pitcher's duel from the outset, as the contest remained scoreless through three. The Lancers offense would take off in the final four innings, however, as they would score nine runs to win their second straight championship, 9-3.
Orange Lutheran will return to Cary in 2019 in hopes to defend their crown to complete the tournament's first-ever three-peat. With the 2019 tournament quickly approaching, we will have to wait in anticipation to see whose name will be etched into the history books as the 2019 champion of the NHSI.
The Lancers face a tough test in the road to a three-peat as 15 other teams join them at the 2019 NHSI: Blessed Trinity (Roswell, Ga.), Christian Brothers College (St. Louis, Mo.), Corona Del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.), Delbarton (Morristown, N.J.), Desert Oasis (Las Vegas, Nev.), Hagerty (Oviedo, Fla.), Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), Hendersonville (Hendersonville, Tenn.), IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), La Mirada (La Mirada, Calif.), Monsignor Pace (Miami Gardens, Fla.), Northwest Guilford (Kernersville, N.C.), Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.) and South Forsyth (Cumming, Ga.).
Seven of the 2019 USA Baseball National High School Invitational games will be streamed on USABaseball.com, MLB.com, and Facebook Live. Please visit USABaseball.com for complete schedule and streaming information. For the latest news including schedule updates or general information on the NHSI, please follow USA Baseball on Twitter @USABevents.