It’s a star-studded field
By Kevin Eckleberry email@example.com
If history repeats itself, chances are someone playing in the LaGrange Toyota Invitational will go on to accomplish monumental things once he leaves high school behind.
Alumni of the tournament have gone on to win World Series titles, MVP trophies, and nine of them are currently playing in the major leagues, and more are likely on the way.
Countless others have gone on to excel on the collegiate level.
As always, this year’s invitational field includes outstanding teams from across the Southeast, as well as a whole bunch of big-time prospects, perhaps even the next Buster Posey or Jason Heyward, who both played in the tournament.
“It’s a highly-competitive tournament,” LaGrange coach Todd Herrington said. “We’re going to face some of the best teams in the Southeast. I think it’s great for our guys to see what level of play it takes to get to a state-championship level.
“I fully expect to go out and win games. I fully expect us to go out and compete. It’s such a great measuring tool for where we are at this point. I can’t wait to see the outcome.”
Following the format that dates back to the tournament’s inception, there will be two four-team divisions.
Half of the teams are from Georgia, and half of them are from out of state.
Each team will play the other three teams in its division, and the place games will be played Saturday evening, including the championship game at 7:30 p.m.
The games will be played at Granger Park, Callaway High, and LaGrange College.
It is a power-packed field.
Among the participants is Spanish Fort (Ala.), which won three straight state titles from 2010 to 2012 and finished second last year.
North Florida Christian won state titles in 2007 and 2011, and among its players is Carson Sands, a left-handed pitcher who has signed with Florida State.
Cartersville has won six state championships under head coach Stuart Chester, including the 2013 state title.
South Gwinnett went 21-8 last season and is expected to be a title contender this season with shortstop Montrell Marshall leading the way.
The 6-foot-5 Marshall has signed with Auburn, although he’ll have a decision to make if he goes high in the draft as expected.
Crisp County was in the semifinals a year ago, and it is led by shortstop and pitcher Taylor Walls, who has signed with Florida State.
Bartram Trail (Fla.) is led by outfielder Justin Smith, who has signed with Miami.
West Orange (Fla.) is led by pitcher Andrew Karp, a Florida State signee who throws a fastball that reaches into the low 90s.
Herrington said he doesn’t have any trouble attracting high-quality teams to the tournament, although there is a lot more competition than there used to be.
“When this tournament first started out, we were one of the first ones doing a tournament like this,” Herrington said. “Now they’re everywhere, and it’s more competitive to get these teams in it. I’m going to start tomorrow trying to get next year’s teams.”
Herrington said it helps that the teams know they’re going to have a tremendous experience at the tournament.
Herrington said it’s a team effort putting the tournament together, and that includes a handful of parents who put in a lot of time and effort.
“Our parents, the Blue Sox organization, they’re tremendous,” Herrington said. “Without them, we could not do what we do. All the parents do all the little things that make the tournament great.”
Here is a tournament schedule
6 p.m. - LaGrange vs. Cartersville
3 p.m. - North Florida Christian vs. Cartersville
5:30 p.m. - Spanish Fort vs. North Florida Christian
8 p.m. - LaGrange vs. Spanish Fort
3 p.m. - Bartram vs. Crisp County
5:30 p.m. - South Gwinnett vs. West Orange
8 p.m. - Crisp County vs. South Gwinnett
10 a.m. - Bartram vs. West Orange
10 a.m. - LaGrange vs. North Florida Christian
12:30 p.m. - Cartersville vs. Spanish Fort
5 p.m. - Seventh-place game
7:30 p.m. - Third-place game
10 a.m. - South Gwinnett vs. Bartram
12:30 p.m. - Crisp County vs. West Orange
5 p.m. - Fifth-place game
7:30 p.m. - Championship game
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