By: Austin Alexander, Will Cheatham, Barry Mabry, Andy Phillips & Cory Welch - March 2-5, 2017
-Scouting frenzy in Columbia; 32 teams, five sites, prospects galore, touching tribute-
Following the most coverage DP has ever had in February because Mother Nature allowed it, March has started in perfect fashion as well! Over a four-day period and at seven different sites across the Midlands and Coastal area, DP saw 52 teams, 32 of them in Lexington County. Five DP scouts were crawling around the NaturChem Tournament, Red Bank Invitational (RBI) and The Comporium. These three events were held at River Bluff HS, Lexington HS, White Knoll HS, Gilbert HS, we even sprung out to Swansea HS for one contest...and DP had a front row seat for all the action!
As we roamed around there were times we would leave some match-ups before its close and arrive at others in the middle of a dogfight. Hence, you will find no game recaps, only scores on our DP Scoreboard. But, what you can take to the bank is a very long list of prospects that we laid eyes on, followed by in-depth evaluations by our various scouts. FYI, we could not see every single pitching performance, swing of the bat or web gem...but we saw quite a bit of baseball!
#22 Tribute: The untimely passing of White Knoll sophomore standout Brett Williams in January has affected one family and the baseball world in the most difficult of ways. But on Wednesday night, one community rallied around this loss in as classy of fashion as you will ever find. If you were there, words cannot express what transpired, but we will try. As the starting line-up was announced #22-playing RF-Brett Williams...and he was leading off. When the Timberwolves took the field in the first inning, Brett's glove and hat were placed in rightfield, they played the entire frame with no one there. When it was White Knoll's turn to hit, he was announced and with an empty batter's box, the Newberry pitcher issued an intentional walk, tossing four pitches out of the zone to the catcher. At that point the game was halted and the parents of Brett Williams came onto the field for a jersey retiring ceremony while there was hardly a dry eye in the ballpark. Then the game resumed but the outcome was not the lead story on this night. The headline on this evening was to honor the life of a special young man that just happened to be a very good ballplayer too. And to Coach Charles Assey, well-done my friend, well-done. From the way you have handled this loss at moment number one through Wednesday night, textbook in tragic times.
Breath of Fresh Air: As we took a seat for our 9 AM start and another of many games on the slate, a young man toting a radar gun and clipboard pulled up a seat between us. But 7th grader Luke Taylor of Gilbert, SC is not your typical kid - at all! Immediately we were enamored at the boys manners, knowledge of baseball, maturity and the aptitude of this dude that had us laughing for seven innings while we learned a little bit too. He was also a huge Cubs fan so that ranked him a tad higher in my mind as well! Though we saw quite a few teenagers this week and will this spring, we won't forget young Luke. Even though we tried to hire him away from his next six years of education to become the youngest DP employee ever, my man has a job waiting on him when he so chooses. Every so often in life 'pure luck' has really interesting people run across your path, Friday morning was one of those times. First bump Luke, you-da-man!
Web Gems: Hands down the play of the year to this point was made on Friday night by AC Flora CF Coleman Pope. In a tie game versus Dorman, Pope took away extra bases and saved the game with his high-diving, fully outstretched super circus catch in left-centerfield. If you have watched any highlight reels of Toronto's Kevin Pillar over the years, insert Pope easily, what a gem! We had intended to list the top five catches of the week, but honestly there was this one...and then there was everyone else! Tip-of-the-cap Mr. Pope!
The Triple Play: In the bottom of the 8th during a contest between JL Mann and River Bluff, the Gators had runners on first and second with no outs. Senior RHP Christian Hyneman hurled a fastball to the plate and a bunt was popped up down the third base line. He dove making a diving back-handed grab and caught all of River Bluff’s baserunners advancing to the next bag for the 1-6-3 trifecta! After escaping disaster in the 8th River Bluff won the game in the bottom of the 10th on an RBI-single from Josh Senter, locking up River Bluff’s spot in the championship game!
Hospitality Heroes: DP thanks the various schools, coaches and volunteers that kept us well-fed, treated us so kindly and produced great baseball options this week. Everything we ran across at each site was first class, further evidence that our sport in this state is in great hands!