David R. Jennings
David R. Jennings
BROOMFIELD — If you’ve seen Wyatt Cross anywhere around town this summer, you’re probably one of the few.
Between college visits, showcase events for baseball and being a part of a traveling team, the Legacy junior catcher can almost count on one hand the days he’s been home.
Lucas Gilbreath has been busy, too, trying to clear his path to a Division I college program thanks to an exceptional summer with the Diamond Club baseball team.
Needless to say, the battery is charging for the Lightning.
Both are being touted as huge college prospects, with Gilbreath making his way as a dominating left-handed pitcher who led Class 5A in strikeouts as a junior and Cross showing signs of being an elite backstop.
In fact, when Gilbreath and Cross have had the chance to catch up, baseball and college have been common topics.
“We’re kind of looking at some of the same schools, and coaches know that we go to the same school, but I’d love to continue to throw to him at the college level,” Gilbreath said.
If they are destined to be college teammates, it’ll likely be in a North Carolina uniform. This week, the younger Cross gave his verbal commitment to the Tar Heels after much deliberation about some other schools.
“They gave me a really good offer, and I went on a visit to the school probably two or three weeks ago and I really like it. I just didn’t want to turn it down,” Cross said of joining the Tar Heels, a perennial College World Series contender. “Now, it’s just preparing, and I’m going to be able to play baseball without any pressure. I’m really looking forward to that.”
For Cross, that decision was the product of the work he’s done this summer with the Perfect Game program. In addition to playing in national spotlight tournaments with a team called the CageRats — recently the squad participated in the PG 17U Nationals in Marietta, Ga. — Cross traveled to Minneapolis earlier in June to participate in a junior national showcase.
There, he got to watch other catchers in the 2015 class do their work, and he felt pretty good about where he stood after things were said and done.
“I think it’s gone well, and I’m just trying to work really hard. Setting my sights on what I want to accomplish and knowing what’s realistic and what’s not,” said Cross, who throws right-handed and bats lefty. “We all worked out together and against each other, and it’s just been really cool to see where I stand with other kids in my class.
“I’d like to think I’m ahead on some things. I think after going to these showcases, I’m right there with the best of them.”
At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Cross definitely wants to get bigger and stronger. As it stands, he already is considered a potential high draft choice out of high school in a scarce position.
Pitchers, meanwhile, come in droves and for Gilbreath that means installing something special into his repertoire. He’s also attended a couple of high-profile events this summer, including an 18U showcase for Perfect Game in Georgia and the Junior Sunbelt Classic in McAlester, Okla.
For Gilbreath, who is listed at 6-1 and 185, a sneaky slider could be the difference. And with Diamond Club, he has been working with pitching coach Wayne Doland to develop that bite.
“In the past I’ve been a fastball-curveball kind of pitcher but throughout the summer I’ve been working on trying to develop my change up as well as the slider, just to add more dimension,” said Gilbreath, the winning pitcher in the Boulder NIT semifinal against Rocky Mountain last Sunday as his team captured the championship. “The hardest part of the slider is if you make a mistake throwing it, it’s just going to hang up there and a lot of hitters are going to do some damage. It’s so close to your fastball speed. I’ve just been trying to work that down in the zone and keep getting the groundballs out of it. Make the hitter make the mistake.”
Before they take the field for Legacy in the spring, both players will play fall ball knowing the sport is in their future plans. But, both battery mates are also looking forward to taking the field with the Lightning ready to combat the Front Range League.
“I think we’ll be a better unit this year because everyone has played together a lot,” Cross said. “It’ll definitely be fun.”
Added Gilbreath: “I think that we can go out there and, when I’m on the mound and he’s at the plate, get guys out and just start that adrenaline for our team. I think we both can lead by example out there.”
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