By: Austin Alexander - August 11-12, 2018
-Northeast 3-peats in impressive effort; young prospects steal stage-
This past weekend was another terrific celebration of high school baseball in South Carolina! Well over 125 college coaches and professional scouts, along with our state's top talent, flocked to USC's Founders Park on Saturday for Opening Day of the 11th Annual Palmetto Games. With the Gamecocks National Championship reminders around the yard and an immaculate surface, a perfect setting was set for our all-star event!
As always, the format had a championship flavor pitting players against each other that hail from their geographic region. In the past we have made this a three day affair, in 2013 we made the move to a two-day approach with the schedule calling for batting practice on the field, along with pre-game infield/outfield, and 60's on Saturday, followed by games.
It has become a running joke with coaches and scouts that Mother Nature is not a Palmetto Games fan, as we have become accustomed to every sort of weather (except snow) and delay imaginable over the years. This Saturday marked only the fourth time that the tarp stayed tucked in its cover and all six teams were able to hit on the field! Albeit quite warm, the skies remained clear and allowed us to execute our gameplan, thus setting the stage for some quality baseball! Day 2 came with an optimistic forecast which prompted many to make the ill-advised statement "looks like we are going to be alright weather-wise"...Folks this is the Palmetto Games, it's never without a threat! Luckily one rain cell was not heavy enough to flush us off the field and lightning strikes pushed the edge of 'danger radius', BUT the show went on flawlessly.
Each team was able to participate in their post-game with awards being handed out for: Golden Arm, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and Charlie Hustle Awards.
For the third straight year, the Northeast (2-0) group was one of two undefeated clubs in a 6-team field at the Palmetto Games to claim their third title overall. The Midwest squad also posted a 2-0 mark over the weekend but fell short in the run differential tie-breaker. Woodruff Head Coach Grant Ramsey guided a group of talent that blew away the field plating 17 runs while surrendering 6 over their 16 innings of play.
Taking our top awards during the weekend were Hartsville 2021 Dariyan Pendergrass (Most Outstanding Player) in large part due to his game-changing defensive and baserunning prowess. Pictured right, Conway's Will Smith (Most Outstanding Pitcher) produced undoubtedly the top mound performance, combined with electric stuff. In honor of our deceased friend and staff member Jeff Young, the 2nd annual "JY" Heavy Hitter award was issued to Eastside's Joseph Mershon (left).
The TO Award: Within a month following 2015's Palmetto Games, DP MVP Tony Osterman was diagnosed with cancer. After an insane round of chemo treatments, radiation and numerous surgeries, guess who was back in the same role they have filled for 13 years... a cancer-free winner of life. In honor of our Warrior, last year we began an award that honors one participant that shares TO's zest for living and overall excellence as a person, this year's recipient was White Knoll's Jacob Bannister (pictured with TO).
Quick Notes: A total of 53 different pitchers worked at 85+ MPH, 34 in the upper-80's, 8 more hitting the magic number 90 or better, with Will Smith and Mauldin's Alex Edmondson each spending time at the 93 MPH mark...A solid number of 30 runners shot through the finish line at 7.0 seconds or less, atop that list was Latta's Dylan Brewer turning in a 6.65...
-Palmetto Games History Made-
1) Pitchers lid pickups: Countless and pointless. Moundsmen should not need a chin-strap and no one watching wants to see it. Regardless of head action through the violence of a pitching delivery, the cap should remain on the dome. Pick up the pace, not the cap. Hair care is the culprit. Probably a future DP article?... 2) Steals of home: 2. Kudos to the runners that took advantage of pitchers that were 3.0 seconds to the plate. Teaching point, pitchers learn to be at your best in the stretch, vs more comfortable in the wind-up... 3) Pitching change mid-inning: DP apologizes... 4) In-game homers over 96 offensive innings: 0... 5) Zero delays in on-field action, a big win for all!
DP Note: Traditionally we publish the box scores and an All-Palmetto Games Team but the game statistics we were given lacked accuracy this year, we apologize.
Special Appearance: Most people in this state know the last name Tolleson, certainly in the Upstate. On Saturday we were very fortunate to have the patriarch of the family, Wayne Tolleson join us at the Palmetto Games for the fourth straight year. The Northeast team was blessed to have the 9-year MLB veteran supporting them but he also moved around the stadium speaking to quite a few players, parents and scouts. Wayne is the father of former USC standout and big-leaguer Steven plus former PGA golfer Clint. Always a win to have this awesome man associated with anything that we do!
And the Johnny Carson Scouting Award goes to... plus more: This dubious award has historically gone to the Braves Billy Best, and could have again due to all of the reduction of prices in hot dogs and t-shirts, etc when a very good arm landed on the bump. But this year one scout decided to embarrass himself more than others! There is no criteria for this award. It comes with zero fanfare, perks or pay raises. It's really not even a big deal whatsoever but Paul Faulk (Nationals) did ride a scooter on the concourse of Founders Park. This guy has signed countless MLB players and has been a mainstay of the peanut gallery with other suspects Neil Avent (Athletics) and Billy Godwin (Yankees) as they essentially ran the 60's session for us on Saturday again...A firm handshake most certainly goes to the Hall of Famer Lon Joyce (Dodgers), locked in as always during his 27th year as a professional scout after a successful run as a Hall of Fame coach! A great mentor and fountain of knowledge, thank you for your support '21'!
AA's Pitch: The 2018 Palmetto Games saw a wealth of talent with another handsome number of scouts in attendance, thus making this weekend another successful event! We are often complemented, but could never have pulled off the feat without a ton of help from every edge of our state and in between. Thank you to the prep coaches that assist us daily, your help is huge. I also want to publically complement our DP team. Loyalty, dedication, pursuit of perfection...I am insulated with a group of winners which is the biggest reason this Diamond Prospects train continues to roll on.
The DP staff would like to send out a giant fist-bump to the following:
Sleep Inn on Bush River Rd, CrazyBaseball.com, Rawlings, Mizuno, LDH Sports, Anchor Bat Company, PalmetoSportsImaging.com along with the many coaches and scouts that stuck around all weekend...Also, our main man at the mic Bill Petty, "the East Coast Vin Scully!" Last but not least, the University of South Carolina, skipper Mark Kingston, his entire coaching staff and the assembled support staff that handled every request in stride. Thank you to all for your support of prep hardball in South Carolina!