While his friends back home were checking into classes, South Hills high pitcher Brandon Dieter was competing against the best young baseball players in the country, battling to make the USA Baseball 18 U National Team that will compete in the World Cup of Baseball that begins in Thunder Bay, Canada on Friday.
Last week, Dieter, who led South Hills to a CIF Southern Section Division 2 title as a sophomore and verbally committed to Stanford, found out he made the prestigious 20-man roster.
Dieter, along with Corona Santiago’s Brice Turang, were the only players from California to make the final roster, which started with 40 players in camp when the journey began.
“It’s all surreal,” Dieter said of making the team. “It’s kind of hard to comprehend that only 20 guys in the country make the team.
“During camp, we played five intrasquad games, practiced a lot and I ended up playing really well. I’m glad it all worked out, it’s a huge honor to wear the Team USA jersey.”
Dieter, a senior, got the start in Monday’s scrimmage against the Minnesota Blizzard in Chaska Athletic Park in Minnesota and was nearly perfect.
He threw five innings and faced just one batter over the minimum of one-hit ball, needing just 53 pitches. He didn’t walk anyone, struck out six and got the victory.
“I threw really well, attacking the zone doing exactly what I needed to do,” Dieter said of his performance, in which Team USA won 11-0. “Hopefully I continue to pitch well, I’m really enjoying this experience. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Dieter is only 6-feet, 180 pounds, but he has an incredible work ethic that has allowed him to thrive.
In June, he competed in Perfect Game’s National Showcase in Fort Myers, Florida, and was impressive there as well.
“I was probably one of the smallest guys there, believe it or not,” Dieter told Baseball America. “Walking into dugouts with all these 6-4 guys, throwing 94 and stuff, so I know that I have to work a lot harder than everyone else to compete with them and be able to perform at the highest level.
“It’s just something that I always do because I know once you go into college or pro ball or wherever you go, hard work’s going to keep you performing at the highest level and staying in the game as long as possible.”
What he has accomplished is only surprising to South Hills coach Darren Murphy because there are always politics involved when narrowing a national team with so made good players.
“It’s not easy making those teams,” Murphy said. “But anything he does doesn’t surprise me because of how hard he works.
“He’s just got that ‘It’ factor about him. When the chips are down he’s going to come through. He’s got an unbelievable competitiveness about him. He’s not the rah-rah guy on the outside, he’s got that fire inside of him. I rarely ever see him fail.”
The U-18 Baseball World Cup that starts Friday runs through Sept. 10. The U.S. opens against the Netherlands.
Team USA is the three-time defending World Cup champion and will look to become the second country to win four-straight gold medals in the tournament.
For now, Dieter said he is likely to pitch game four on Monday against South Africa.
He’s also shown to be a very good hitter through the process and can play infield or outfield. That versatility is one of the big reasons he could be used during any game in the tournament
In the meantime, he’s doing homework like any student back at home. He’s working with his counselors and teachers because in addition to being one of the best age-group players in the country, he gets it done in the classroom as well.
He’s a 4.0 student and one of South Hills’ valedictorian candidates.
“I’ll get it all done,” Dieter said. “My counselor’s, my teachers, they made it all work out. It’s just a balance, that’s all.”
Recently, Murphy spoke with some of those teachers, who had flattering things to say.
“I had two different teachers tell me he’s the best student they’ve ever had,” Murphy said. “You don’t usually hear that about high caliber athletes. He’s the epitome of what you think a Stanford student is.”
And speaking of that, Dieter is playing so well he might have a big decision next spring when it’s time for Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.
“The word is he’s playing himself into a high draft pick,” Murphy said. “When you commit to Stanford, usually that’s it, you go to Stanford. But I think what Brandon wants is a choice. He wants to make that decision when it comes and with what he’s done this summer, I’m sure he’ll get the opportunity to make those tough decisions.”