Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Some of the best high school baseball teams in the state are coming to Mike Johnson Park in Georgetown this week for the International Paper Baseball Classic.
Now in its 24th year, the IP Classic was recently named one the 10 best high school baseball tournaments in the country by the website maxpreps.com.
For the first time in the tournament’s history there’s a new head coach in the dugout for the host team, the Georgetown Bulldogs. Ben Waddle took over the team after the retirement of longtime coach Mike Johnson.
“We’re just trying to carry on the traditions that have been established here,” Waddle said.
The competition at the tournament allows players to “see where you measure up,” Waddle said.
This year’s IP Classic also features Conway, Dorman, Summerville, Sumter, A.C. Flora, Belton-Honea Path and Greenville.
“We are very excited about competing in the IP Classic baseball tournament. We have been here before and really enjoyed the great baseball atmosphere that the IP Classic and the community of Georgetown provide for all the teams,” said Belton-Honea Path head coach Steve Williams. “It is certainly the top high school tournament in the state as it presents a playoff-type challenge to kick off the season. Players and teams must prepare to battle against great competition in every game with both pro and college scouts in the stands.”
In Class AAAA, Sumter is ranked No. 1 in the state, Dorman is No. 4, and Summerville is No. 8.
“The [IP Classic] format is a great tool for us to see where we stand against the better 4A teams in our state,” said Summerville head coach Alan Bridges. “It also allows for us to play some great 3A programs that we normally would not face. It will be a formidable task for us to compete day in and day out, however we are grateful for the invite and welcome the challenges it presents us.”
In Class AAA, A.C. Flora, the defending state champions, is ranked No. 1, Greenville is No. 2, and Belton-Honea Path is No. 4.
“This is our third year in a row getting the invite to participate in the IP Classic which I think is the best tournament in South Carolina,” said Greenville head coach Steven Scolamiero. “Getting the opportunity to play in such a great tournament will give us an idea of where our team is at early in the year and the areas that we will need to improve on moving into the regular season.”
This year’s Georgetown squad has a lot of experience. Nine of the 16 players are seniors.
Several of the seniors said playing in their last IP Classic is “bittersweet.”
“We’re got to go out with a bang. Do the best we can and hopefully win,” said Ryan Williams. “There ain’t nothing like it. It’s the best tournament in the state.”
“All the scouts get out there, and everybody’s trying to get their best teams out there,” said Woody Woodall. “All the best players in the state come over here to play.”
Waddle expects to scouts to be out in force when Conway’s Grant Holmes takes the mound. The 6’1” righthander consistently registers in the 90s with his pitches.
When the Bulldogs played the Tigers in a recent scrimmage there were about 25 scouts in attendance.
Waddle is looking forward to coaching against his old team, Dorman.
“It will be fun to see those guys again,” he said.
“There are so many good preseason tournaments in the state, but only one IP Classic,” said Dorman head coach Matthew West. “Our guys have worked hard all year to have a chance to represent Dorman down here. It’s a great opportunity for the guys to get a chance to come down and compete with the best teams in the state.”
Georgetown’s 2014 senior class are a close-knit group. Some have been playing together since tee ball.
They all have the same goals: IP Classic title and Class AAA state title.
“It’s my last year I want to go out with a bang,” said Cody Thompson.
“’We’re] just trying to play hard, been working hard all off-season, trying to go out and show everybody we’re here to play,” said Riley Jordan. “We’re serious this year.”
“It’s a sad feeling, but it’s a great feeling,” said Seth Wall. “I’ve come a long way since freshmen year. I’m glad I get to spend this last season with the boys, trying to do some big things this year.”
Thursday: Summerville vs. Sumter, 2 p.m.; A.C. Flora vs. Georgetown, 4:15 p.m.; Dorman vs. Conway, 6:45 p.m.; Belton-Honea Path vs. Greenville, 9 p.m.
Friday: Sumter vs. Dorman, 10:30 a.m.; A.C. Flora vs. Belton-Honea Path, 1 p.m.; Summerville vs. Conway, 3:30 p.m.; opening ceremonies, home run derby and base running contest, 6 p.m.; Greenville vs. Georgetown 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: Conway vs. Sumter, 8:30 a.m.; Greenville vs. A.C. Flora, 11 a.m.; Dorman vs Summerville, 1:30 p.m.; Georgetown vs. Belton-Honea Path, 4 p.m.
Based on the standings after the preliminary games, there will be games at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The IP Classic championship game will be at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
You can get game and schedule updates on Twitter by following @IPClassic or on Facebook by liking I.P. Classic. The tournament’s website is www.ipclassic.com.