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Grand Canyon University wasn't exactly packed to watch two of the most highly touted high school baseball players — and best friends — go head-to-head.
But there may have been a record amount of radar guns, stop watches and other measuring devices for a high school game.
According to Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic
, upwards of 80 scouts were in attendance to watch left-hand power pitcher Matthew Liberatore
of Mountain Ridge (Glendale, Ariz.)
battle third-base slugger Nolan Gorman
of O'Connor (Phoenix)
in a 6A Desert Valley region game.
Gorman, winner of three home-run hitting contests over the summer at Major League parks, is projected by Baseball America as the fifth pick overall in June's draft. Liberatore is projected at No. 10.
But on Thursday, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Liberatore got the upper hand, striking out 13 in 6.1 innings, including Gorman once, during a 2-1 victory. The teams battle again Friday before the state playoffs begin next week.
Gorman, the 6-1, 210-pounder who came in with eight home runs and a hefty .424 batting average, went 0-for-3 with a flyout and ground out against Liberatore, who improved to 5-1 with a 0.87 ERA. He has 74 strikeouts in 40.1 innings.
The two have been pals since playing on youth all-star teams. They won a gold medal together for USA U18 last summer and both have committed to the University of Arizona, though each will likely be lured by big money contract offers in June.
On Thursday, they were foes for the first time in a long time.
"He brought everything," Gorman told Obert.
Said Liberatore: "He is my best friend, but when he's on the other side of the field, he's my enemy. I'm going to stare him down, I'm going to give him my best pitches, and I'm going to make him look like any other batter that I'm going to face."