Preps Baseball: Pine Creek Eagles (2) Regis Jesuit Raiders (0)

Pine Creek’s Riley Cornelio pitches to the visiting Regis Jesuit Raiders in a nonconference baseball game May 5. He is reportedly the first area player to make the U-18 national team in a decade.

A little over two months ago, the No. 2 Pine Creek baseball team took an early exit from the Class 5A postseason tournament. But despite an early playoff exit, one Eagle is proving that Pine Creek will be back in the postseason mix next year — all the while making his name known on the national level.

Riley Cornelio, a rising senior at Pine Creek, earned a tryout for the USA U18 national team, made the 40-man roster in late June, and spent two weeks in Cary, N.C., training and competing in trials with 80 of the top baseball players in the U.S.

“It was awesome to go out there and make new friends and be able to showcase my talent against some of the other guys around the nation and get to know them,” Cornelio said.

Preps Baseball: Pine Creek Eagles (2) Regis Jesuit Raiders (0)

The Pine Creek Eagles (2) host the Regis Jesuit Raiders (0) in a non-conference baseball game Saturday May 5, 2018. Photo by Jeff Kearney.

The right-handed pitcher threw in two games while with the U18 team to decide the final USA baseball roster, set to be announced this fall.

After the first round of cuts, Cornelio started on the mound for the undefeated U18 Trials Stripes team and threw four innings, allowed four hits and struck out two batters. In 74 pitches, Cornelio threw 43 for strikes.

“That first time out there I was really nervous and tried to overdo some stuff,” Cornelio said. “But the second week I was more prepared and trusted my stuff more to get the hitters out that I needed to.

“I think especially the first game the hitters really magnified if I made a mistake down the middle. All of the hitters saw everything well and took advantage if I missed my spot. And some were even good enough to still get a good hit even if I hit (my spot). So seeing how disciplined the hitters were I think helped. The biggest thing I had to do was trust my stuff and be confident when I walked on the mound.”

Once set, the final roster for the U18 team will train the week before Thanksgiving in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., before traveling to Panama City for the COPABE U-18 Pan-American Championships in the final week of November.

In his junior season at Pine Creek, Cornelio hit .468 and slugged .870 thanks to four home runs and 12 extra-base hits. But it was his work on the mound which led him to a first-team Gazette Preps All-Star selection.

With a 0.91 ERA through 53.2 innings pitched, Cornelio helped the Eagles to a top-two rank in Class 5A heading into the state playoffs. His ERA ranked him among the top eight pitchers in the state, and he boasted the best earned-run average of any pitcher who threw more than 52 innings. He racked up nine wins in 10 starts, threw four shutouts, had four games in which he fanned 10 or more batters and had 58 strikeouts on the year.

Even though the USA U18 trials are over, Cornelio is still busy with summer tournaments. As a member of the Colorado Slammers, Cornelio continues to compete throughout the summer, and is preparing to head to an Area Code Baseball Showcase in Long Beach, Calif. He is one of eight athletes invited from Colorado, and the only player from the Pikes Peak region.

After Area Codes, Cornelio will compete at the 2018 Perfect Game All-American Classic. Earlier this summer at the Perfect Game National Showcase, scouts raved about Cornelio’s arm speed and improvement.

“Very fast arm coming through,” The Perfect Game scout reported. “Fastball topped out at 93 mph, moves in there, mostly straight. Slurve-type breaking ball with hard spin, can get on top of curveball more consistently but it has quality spin. Maintains arm speed very well on his change-up, will be a good pitch for him. Keeps improving every time we see him.”

Cornelio is committed to play baseball at TCU and plans to sign his National Letter of Intent this fall.

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