American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) coach Bruce Aven knew he had two special seniors this season, so he beefed up his roster with underclassmen so they would have a chance to play with Triston Casas and Cory Acton.
Casas, a Miami commit considered a likely first-round draft choice and Acton, a Florida commit who also could go in the first round, haven’t disappointed.
Casas is hitting .418 with six homers and 28 RBI in 55 at-bats and has been walked an eye-popping 26 times as pitchers try to prevent bombs such as this:
Acton has been even deadlier while hitting .449 with 32 RBI and seven homers.
“The numbers they have been putting up are against the best pitchers we can play,” Aven said. The Patriots are 20-2 and ranked No. 11 in the Super 25 and have played an elite schedule that includes two teams that were in the Super 25 and the National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C.
“They are good teammates and they are both good leaders,” Aven said. “They are leaders who are unique because they are not just vocal, but they can talk baseball. It’s not, ‘Let’s go, let’s go!’ but ‘This guy who’s coming in likes to throw a sinker to right-handed hitters and this guy is coming in, he can’t throw a curve ball for as strike, or you can tell the curve is coming when he drops his arm.’ They talk baseball the way it should be talked about but isn’t often at the high-school level.”
Casas said that since both he and Acton are left-handed power hitters, watching pitchers face Acton gives him an idea how they’re going to pitch him.
“For the majority of the season, I’ve hit behind (Acton),” Casas said. “Because I’m behind him, he may be getting more pitches to hit, but I get a glimpse to see how they will pitch to me.”
Aven, who was an outfielder for four major league teams, wanted to show his stars’ versatility. While Casas, who is 6-4 and 245 pounds, is considered a likely first baseman, he has played mostly third base this season, showing off a strong right arm (he has 15 strikeouts in 7.1 innings on the mound) and surprising athleticism.
“Both of them are playing a position that they could probably play in professional baseball,” Aven said. “Having Triston play third base and charge the ball is a big plus for us. The people who think Triston is just a first baseman haven’t had a chance to see him. Triston is a lot more athletic than a lot of people realize. He played up for so long that the most natural thing was to put him at first base, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that he could play third or right field as well.”
Casas said initially his move to third gave his younger brother Gavin, a sophomore for the Patriots, a chance to play first base, but it has had other dividends.
“I can play anywhere in the field,” Casas said. “I’m a baseball player. It has definitely been a transition because I’ve played first base most of my life. Getting a lot of reps at third base has helped me get comfortable there. I am working hard on my mobility.”
Acton, who is 6-1 and 195 pounds, had been the team’s third baseman but he has a better chance of going far as a middle infielder so Aven has played him mostly at second base and some at shortstop.
“I played with Chase Utley and he came up as a third baseman, but they moved him to second base and now, you have a powerful second baseman,” Aven said. “At third base, Cory wasn’t able to develop his footwork. At short or second, you have to make a few steps and make different type of throws and Cory has picked that up pretty quick.”