It’s safe to say Pine Creek’s Riley Cornelio will remember November 2018.
The senior not only signed his National Letter of Intent to continue his baseball career at TCU, but he also made the final 20-man roster on the USA Baseball U-18 team. He will travel to Santiago, Panama, to compete in the 2018 COPABE U-18 Pan-American Championships starting this weekend.
“It’s been a really good week playing some games and getting to know some of the kids and seeing some friends from the summer,” Cornelio said. “It really shaped out to be the team we were already going to play with (in Panama). We’re all really close and it’s a good group of guys who came down.”
Less than 24 hours after the 20-man roster was announced, Cornelio was off to the airport to travel to Panama.
“We are starting in pool play, I think there’s five teams in our pool including us,” Cornelio said. “We fly down today (Wednesday) and we have off for Thanksgiving to kind of hang out, we might have practice. Then we play nine games in 10 days after that.”
Cornelio is the only representative from Colorado, and according to Pine Creek coach Glenn Milhauser, Cornelio is the first local player in 10 years to make the U-18 national team.
According to USA Baseball, “The athletes selected for the 18U National Team are chosen from the 17U NTDP, the USA Baseball 17U National Team Identification Series , the Tournament of Stars, as well as recommendations from professional scouts, USA Baseball task force members and collegiate and high school coaches.”
After a summer trying out and training with USA baseball, Cornelio traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last week for a final round of cuts and appeared in two games as U-18 hopefuls played a series of teams throughout the week.
In two appearances as a right-handed closer, Cornelio racked up seven strikeouts through three innings. In his first appearance against Nova Southeastern Cornelio struck out five batters through two innings, throwing 27 pitches — 20 for strikes.
“I think one of the only things that has been a big change is the amount of time I take in the bullpen to warm up. It’s a little different when you’re starting and you can plan out a routine in details,” Cornelio said. “That’s one of the biggest adjustments for me. And then when I got out there I have to make sure I’m not over throwing, and sticking to my game.”
Cornelio and Team USA will open play at the Pan-American Championships on Friday against Honduras. Team USA has won four consecutive Pan-Am gold medals and has won seven straight international tournament titles.
In addition to bonding with his future teammates on the baseball diamond, Cornelio also signed his National Letter of Intent with 17 other seniors. The team had an official signing day ceremony for athletes.
“It was a really cool moment for me knowing that it was a possibility that I would get to be their teammate in a couple days and looking back that was a really cool thing,” Cornelio said.