E.A. Sports Today


Excel Academy teams find success in summer, players get exposure, college offers

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

It’s been another big summer for the teams of Excel Baseball Academy and in some ways it was a better season than most.

The Oxford-based baseball school fielded a record six travel teams this summer, two each – Excel Blue Wave and Blue Sox – in 15U, 16U and 17U. Some had better success on the field than others, but all contributed to the players in the program receiving more college offers and exposure to the next level than ever before.

Three teams won tournaments, one made the playoffs in a major event. Nearly 20 players have received college offers and 13 either committed or signed – to such programs as Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Memphis — and more are expected through the fall.

“I think a couple of the teams outperformed what we expect and I think two of them we expected to have a little better special runs,” Excel founding partner and 15U Blue Wave manager Matthew Maniscalco said. “We’ve never had six teams before, so it’s hard to compare whether this was the best summer or not.

“We’re proud of it, but we had so many kids get collegiate offers. I think overall on that side I don’t think we ever had so many kids get offered by and exposed (to) colleges and that’s what were all about.

“We’re all about playing meaningful baseball against good competition and getting these kids exposed to college and pro scouts. I would say it’s probably the best summer we’ve ever had on that, which is something to brag about. When you look at all our guys who have gone off to college, playing in professional baseball, I think it was one of our best. The wins and loses its hard to compare.”

They could have fielded more teams this summer, but didn’t want to dilute their pool or mission. They went with six, Maniscalco said, because of the quality of the instructors serving as coaches. In addition to Maniscalco and partner Josh Beshears (16U Blue Wave), the others included Judd Edwards (15U Blue Sox), Wes Henderson (16U Blue Sox), Steve Gendron (17U Blue Wave), and Logan Crook and Russ Pilkington (17U Blue Sox).

The program’s best collective effort came in the third week of the season when both 16s and both 18s won their respective pools in the Perfect Game Invitational in Emerson, Ga. The 15s were playing against older competition.

Edwards’ team won the season-ending Excel Open in Birmingham and the teams managed by Gendron and Henderson won wood-bat tournaments in Chattanooga.

The best showing by far was Maniscalco’s team reaching the final 16 in the 200-team World Wood Bat Tournament. It battled back from an early loss to win its pool – beating a team from San Diego to do it — and won its first-round playoff game before falling in a one-run game.

That team had six Calhoun County players on its roster – three from Oxford (Carson Lindsey, Brody Syer and Brennan McCullough) and three from White Plains (Andrew Norred, Taylor Morrow and Drew Hudson).

“It was a pretty special run,” Maniscalco said. “Our summer is built toward that tournament. When I saw our pool and all the teams we were going to have to play, I knew it was going to be an uphill battle to come in first in our pool.

“It was almost like when I played at Mississippi State; when you won in the SEC, it was like Omaha. Winning that eight-team pool was huge for us. For me it was they get to make some memories together and have some special times and play some baseball that actually means something. That’s what we preach to our kids, not your batting average or what number prospect you are.”

The program will hold tryouts for all of next season’s teams Aug. 15-16 at Samford and Hoover High School. Details can be found at its website www.excelbaseballacademy.com

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