The LaGrange Toyota Invitational tournament, which has become a fixture on the local baseball scene, will return next month with the familiar eight-team format.
Those teams will all be trying to finish atop the standings when the tournament gets under way on Feb. 28, and it’ll continue through March 3 when the championship game will be held.
All eight teams will play four tournament games, assuming the weather cooperates.
Todd Herrington, who is in his first season as the Grangers’ head coach after taking over for long-time coach Donnie Branch, said it’s becoming a bit tougher to fill out the field because of the proliferation of tournaments across the state and the Southeast, but he believes this year’s field is as strong as ever.
“We found a really good, solid field,” Herrington said. “It’s as competitive as ever.”
For the first time, this year’s tournament will include a local team other than LaGrange, with the Callaway Cavaliers making their tournament debut.
Callaway is coming off an appearance in the state quarterfinals last season, and the team has high expectations this season with most of the players returning, including pitching standouts Kane Keith and Nick O’Berry.
“They have a really good pitching staff. They’re definitely going to be able to compete,” Herrington said. “They’re deserving. No doubt about it.”
Callaway has been a part of the tournament in past years as a host site.
“For years and years, we’ve used their facility for this tournament,” Herrington said. “It’ll be real nice for them to be in it. We’re looking forward to that.”
LaGrange also heads into the tournament after a successful 2012 season that ended with a close loss to Ringgold in the quarterfinals.
LaGrange was hit by graduation a bit harder than Callaway, although there’s still plenty of talent in the fold, including standout senior pitcher Drew Moody.
Joining LaGrange and Callaway in the tournament field are Crisp County, Grayson, Lambert, Eagles View (Fla.), Cullman (Ala.) and Russell County (Ala.).
Herrington said the preparation for the tournament is well under way, and a lot of the work is being done by tournament organizer Andy Buchanan.
“We’re fortunate to have Andy Buchanan,” Herrington said. “He does a fantastic job of organizing, communicating with the coaches and getting the hotel rooms set up, getting host parents.”