NCS D1 Playoff (CA): Freedom at Heritage

Blaine Clemmens
Northern California Director of Scouting



NOTE: This is a pretty straight-forward game recap, any scouting notes/stats for players from this game can be found within their profiles.

BRENTWOOD, CA - The 1st and 2nd place teams from the Bay Valley League squared off in the 1st round of the NCS-D1 playoffs on Tuesday May 14. The host and #6 seeded Heritage Patriots won the league title with a 9-1 record, edging out the 11th seeded Freedom Falcons who finished at 7-3. They split their two games this season.

Heritage took the contest, 4-0, behind the stellar pitching of 2021 LHP Cristian Machado and an offense that took advantage of a couple of defensive miscues by Freedom in the bottom of the 4th inning. Machado was simply masterful, going 6 innings, giving up two hits, two BB, HBP, while striking out six Freedom hitters. He didn't start the year on the varsity team but Coach Kevin Brannan started him with confidence, expressing to me that "he’s been my most effective down the stretch and doesn’t walk too many." Well, that is exactly how it played out. His stuff was good, with a fastball 79-84 mph and slider 75-76 mph. With the win Machado improved to 7-1 for the season, with a 1.70 ERA, 43 K in 33 IP.

Machado started out the game by punching out the side, including two of the more well-regarded talents in the region, 2020 2B Andrew Neil (St. Mary's commit) and 2019 SS Kyren Paris (Cal commit). He got both Neil and Paris on breaking balls. Paris is the top Northern California high school draft prospect and there was a strong group of scouts (and a couple crosscheckers) on hand to continue their evaluations of him. His first at-bat ended up being a foreshadowing of the rest of his day as he went 0-3 with three strikeouts and also made a costly error in that 4th inning. Neil went 0-for-2 with the K, F1, and reached via HBP.

What was so impressive about Machado was his composure and pitchability and ability to pitch off the fastball all game long. He located in and away, up and down, and rarely made a mistake in the middle. His ability to get ahead with a quality strike one was a major key for him. As I watched the stoutly built Machado I felt like I was watching a really young version of former White Sox LHP Wilson Alvarez. He was that good.

On the mound for Freedom was 2020 RHP Brian McBroom and he also had a good outing. It was just one inning that was a blemish on his day, and one costly decision he made contributed to that 3-run 4th inning. McBroom was also 79-84 mph, with a 67-68 mph curveball and 77-78 mph change-up. His displayed good feel of all three, located well, and changed speed quite deftly. He can absolutely pitch.

Before we get to the fateful 4th inning I should probably explain how Heritage got on the board in the bottom of the first. Hitting from the left side, lead-off hitter 2019 INF Tom Rover (Nevada commit) sliced a fastball down the left field line and scooted to second for a double. After a soft line-out to second base by 2020 2B Chaz Myers (Pacific commit), 2020 SS Ryan Jackson bounced a ball to the right side that he almost beat out, which also moved Rover to 3rd which proved beneficial when he then scored on a passed ball for an early 1-0 lead. Rover would later have another big moment in the fourth inning.

McBroom held Heritage scoreless in the second and third innings. He had to pitch around two soft singles in the third inning, one up the middle by Myers and one that as bounded through the right side when Jackson got the hit and run and executed perfectly when Neil vacated his position a bit too early. McBroom stayed cool and got the fourth place hitter 2020 C Casey Turturici to ground out to second base. For the day McBroom went 6 innings and on my card I've got him giving up five hits, one walk, and recording two strikeouts.

The inning that ultimately put the game out of reach for Freedom was the aforementioned 4th inning. After 2020 CF Keith Jones (Washington State commit) flew out to medium deep centerfield to leadoff the inning, 2020 1B Ryan Troye fisted a ball softly down the right field line for a single. Next was a ball hit softly toward Paris at shortstop and it wasn't likely hit hard enough to turn two. However, Paris rushed in and appeared to be THINKING two, causing him to take his eye off the ball and it rolled under his glove for an error. McBroom held tough and struck out he hitter and looked poised to get out of the inning.

It looked even more likely that he would get out of the inning when 9-hole 2021 OF Gavin Tonkel (was DH in this game) bunted with runners at second and third. He looked to be attempting to push it past McBroom but it went right to the pitcher. However, McBroom must have forgotten there were two outs and he went home with the ball, which seemed to surprise 2019 C Ryan McKinley, as it should have. To his credit, Troye was running hard and slid hard and was judged to have gotten under the tag as McKinley looked to have been a bit out of position to make the tag at the front of the plate. 

As the umpire made the call and the Freedom players were waiting for the call (and likely expecting an 'out' call), they forgot to pay attention to Tonkel who never broke stride and got all the way to second base on the play. He is a plus runner and Freedom likely knows that, but they got caught up in the call. Next up, with runners at second and third, was Rover. He promptly smoked a line drive up the middle to plate two more runs, making it 4-0... which felt like 8-0 with how Machado was pitching. That line drive was one of only a small handful of hard hit balls all day. The hardest hit ball was an F9 off the bat of Jones.

Though his mental error contributed to the inning, McBroom didn't wilt and he struck out Myers to end the inning and then set down the Patriots in order in both the 5th and 6th innings. Something to be said for him not caving and giving in to that tough 4th inning. As impressive as McBroom was, again, it was Machado who set the tone for his Heritage team all day. He eventually was lifted in the top of the 7th inning after walking the first batter he faced that inning. It was really the first time he lost control of his fastball all day.

It wasn't an issue though, as the Patriots had Jackson ready to close the game if need be. He had an incredible season (0.81 ERA, 34.2 IP, 54 K, 19 H, 13 BB... in addition to hitting .568 at the plate) on the mound but hadn't pitched for a number of weeks. He didn't look like it, getting two ground outs to shortstop (Rover moved over from 3rd base) and then striking out the final hitter with an 87 mph fastball. He's without a doubt one of the top uncommitted 2020 players in the region.

With the win Heritage moves on to face 3rd seeded Acalanes, who we have ranked #11 in the latest Power 25. Should be a very good game. Freedom's season ends and for them, they will look ahead to see where Paris is selected in the 2019 MLB Draft and then other Falcons will go on to their summer seasons. Uncommitted senior McKinley is a good catcher, a smaller college catcher still looking for a home. Neil and Jones of Heritage will both be at the PBR ProCase on June 9th at Delta College. Tonkel, Machado, and McBroom will be participating in Bay Area World Series May 31-June 2 at Islanders Field in Lathrop, CA.


Northern California Underclass ID CA 05/26 Islanders Field
Inland Empire Futures Games Trials CA 06/01 Norco High School
SoCal ProCase CA 06/08 Hart Park
Northern California ProCase CA 06/09 Delta College - Nick Cecchetti Field
Bay Area Open Showcase CA 06/26 Laney College
Inland Empire Top Prospect ID CA 07/23 Santiago High School
Norcal Top Prospect ID CA 07/24 St. Mary's College
Junior Future Games / Future Games NATIONAL 07/30 LakePoint
Rising Stars Showcase CA 09/21 Santiago High School