Jared The Junior Sunbelt Classic, originating as an all-star battle between California and Oklahoma, kicked off its baseball season this month with two students from Troup County playing for Team Georgia.
The series, called the ‘most competitive of its kind,’ pits teams of different states against one another.
Colby Williams of Troup High School and Trent Bailey of La- Grange High both represent Troup County on Team Georgia.
The team is made up of twenty high-school juniors who go to McAlester Oklahoma to face off against schools from around the country and even a team from Canada. Players who make the team are first nominated by their coaches before the Team Georgia staff partners with college coaches and major league recruiters to narrow down top players in the selection process.
Williams, a pitcher for Troup, and Bailey, a catcher for the Grangers, both received the high honor of being invited to represent the state of Georgia in the Sunbelt Classic Baseball Series.
The tournament ends Wednesday, June 13, and Team Georgia has earned few wins to date. At the time of this article, the team’s record is 2-5, with two games yet to be played on June 12.
Team Georgia kicked off the series with a narrow loss to Team Canada, falling 7-6 to our neighbors to the north. Team Canada managed to pull the victory out of Team Georgia’s hands with a surprising seventh- inning walk-off.
The story for the team, however, came in its following rebound win against Tennessee. It was Williams who led the way for Team Georgia in the team’s impressive 8-0 victory. Williams, who helped lead his Troup team to the second round of state and to one of the program’s best all-time records, pitched a spectacular performance that kept Tennessee off the board.
But it was more than a shutout. Williams had only fifty-nine pitches in the game, allowing only one hit as Team Georgia blanked Tennessee. The only hit came to the second batter of the game.
Williams pitched a similarly- stunning game against Ridgeland in the second game of the first round of the high school state tournament. With eightytwo pitches, he allowed only two hits with fifteen strikeouts, throwing sixty four strikes for an impressive seventyeight percent strike rate.
Team Georgia wasn’t the only team at the Junior Sunbelt Classic left in awe at Williams’ performance. Some are saying Williams’ pitching will be the talk at the Sunbelt Classic for a long while yet.
Offensively, Team Georgia put together an impressive game, with a five-run seventh inning that allowed them to pull ahead 8-0 over their opponents from Tennessee. The offense started relatively slowly, however, amassing only three runs in the first six innings. With the game close for six innings, Williams delivered the pitching needed to keep the team’s lead safe.
The defense also did their jobs to keep Team Tennessee off the map. Williams and the defense combined for a one-hit shutout that has thus far been the highlight of the team’s Junior Sunbelt Classic experience. The Tennessee pitcher allowed only six hits in the game, but that was five too many to compete with Williams’ impressive performance.
Team Georgia followed their dominating win over Tennessee with a strong showing against Mississippi. The Georgians pulled out a strong 11-4 win, improving their record to 2-1 in tournament play.
Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. The team traveled to play a strong Missouri team that bested them 5-1. A disappointing 12-6 loss against Colorado came soon after, putting team Georgia at 2-3. Another close game against Texas followed soon after, with the Texans besting our Georgians 10-7. Team Georgia held a threerun lead in the second inning but ultimately fell as the Team Texas started its roll. The loss likely prevents Team Georgia from participating in the championships on Wendesday.
Hoping to rebound, Team Georgia played an incredibly-close game against Oklahoma Gold, but fell 8-7 for their second one-point loss of the series. The team found themselves down 8-4 at the top of the seventh before staging a late-game comeback that put them within one point of victory. Oklahoma Gold, however, managed to hold onto the win, dropping Team Georgia to 2-5 in the series.
The current (as of June 11) standings for the 2018 Junior Sunbelt Classic are as follows: 1. Arizona, 7-0 2. Colorado, 5-2 3. Oklahoma Gold, 5-3 4. Texas, 4-3 5. Tennessee, 3-4 6. Canada, 3-4 7. Missouri, 3-4 8. Georgia, 2-5 9. Mississippi, 2-5 10. Oklahoma Blue, 25 Team Georgia, now ranked eighth, peaked at number-three in the rankings after defeating Mississippi earlier in the series.
At the time of this article, Team Georgia has two games remaining against Team Arizona and Oklahoma Blue. The games will be played June 12.
Congratulations to both Williams and Bailey for being selected to represent our state in Team Georgia. Photo credits: Pat Gaston and Team Georgia Baseball.
The author of this article can be reached at jboggs@ troupcountynews.net.