Hagen Danner, Nick Pratto continue to deliver in pressure situations

Moments after Huntington Beach defeated rival Edison, 1-0, at Angel Stadium last month, Hagen Danner pulled out his smartphone near the visiting dugout and started to FaceTime with a former teammate. He grabbed pitcher Nick Pratto, and the two smiled and laughed while letting their friend know baseball is pretty fun these days.

“They’re two grounded kids,” Huntington Beach Coach Benji Medure said. “I told them, ‘I can’t imagine being an 18-year-old kid and dealing with what you two deal with.’ I’m impressed with their maturity and how humble they are.”

Danner, a pitcher-catcher who signed with UCLA, and Pratto, a pitcher-outfielder who signed with USC, could be first-round draft picks in June. They’ve been handling cameras, reporters and expectations ever since they helped Ocean View Little League defeat Japan, 2-1, in the 2011 Little League championship game. Then they won a gold medal playing for the USA 18U national team in 2016.

Because of their experiences growing up, there’s probably no two high school athletes in Southern California better able to handle pressure situations.

“Being able to play in pressure situations now is pretty easy for us,” Danner said. “We kind of get after it and play the game for fun.”

Said Pratto: “It’s a mindset when you come out for these big games, big events. It’s the same game, whether you’re at Angel Stadium or back home in Huntington Beach.”

The right-handed Danner has a 96-mph fastball. Pitching is his strength, though he also is an effective high school hitter. He’s the catcher whenever the left-handed Pratto is pitching. Pratto is creating genuine debate among scouts whether he’s a better pitcher or hitter. He’s that versatile and valuable. It will be up to the pro scouts to make a final determination.

This season, Danner is 6-0 with a 1.12 ERA and is batting .468 with seven home runs. Pratto is 2-1 with a 1.32 ERA and is hitting .342 with six home runs.

“The whole team is feeding off them,” Medure said. “Nick and Hagen have taken on the challenge of being leaders on this team and trying to lead by example.”

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