By: Austin Alexander - August 10-11, 2019
-Southwest wins in dramatic fashion; legit arms grace mound, young prospects shine-
This past weekend was another terrific celebration of high school baseball in South Carolina! Over 125+ college coaches and professional scouts, along with our state's top talent, invaded USC's Founders Park on Saturday for Opening Day of the 12th Annual Palmetto Games. With an immaculate playing surface at one of the country's top college venues, 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, unless we had to even out position needs. In the first five years we 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 fifth 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 scare was not heavy enough to flush us off the field on Saturday and lightning strikes pushed the edge of 'danger radius' on Day 2, 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 first time since 2015, the Southwest squad, filled with energy, took the top team prize with a 2-0 record by winning it in the bottom of the 9th on Sunday in come-from-behind fashion. The Midwest squad also posted a 2-0 mark over the weekend but fell short in the run differential tie-breaker (SW +16, MW +13) despite limiting opponents to 2 runs over 16 innings. Summerville Head Coach Bo Charpia guided a group of talent that blew away the field plating 26 runs while surrendering 10 over their two days of play.
Taking our top awards during the weekend were the following: Fort Dorchester 2020 Jalen Vasquez (right, Most Outstanding Player) who made the top play of the weekend, swung the bat at a 1.000 clip and threw a scoreless inning touching 91 MPH... Landrum 2022 RHP Evan Siary (left) only threw one frame but it was the most impressive inning with 'electric stuff' over the six games; for his efforts he was awarded the Most Outstanding Pitcher Award...In honor of our deceased friend and staff member Jeff Young, the 3rd annual "JY" Heavy Hitter award was issued to Hartsville's Dariyan Pendergrass (left).
Pendergrass continues to take away hardware from the Palmetto Games as he won the Most Outstanding Player Award in 2018 and was in the running for it again this weekend. Congratulations to each winner with a stage loaded with legit dudes!
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 14 years... a cancer-free winner of life.
In honor of our Warrior, 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 Eastside's David Mershon (left).
Quick Notes: A total of 27 arms worked at 88+MPH, 17 more hitting the magic number 90 or better, with Chapin's Cade Austin topping the list at 94 MPH...A solid number of 20 runners shot through the finish line at 7.0 seconds or less, atop that list was Dorman's Jack Renwick turning in a 6.69...
-Palmetto Games History Made-
1) There have been some really good arms that have rolled through this event but I cannot recall when the first seven pitchers to take the mound at the Palmetto Games touching or that pitched at 90+... 2) Pitchers lid pick-ups, (tied 2018): 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 normally the culprit. Might be more acceptable if you throw 92 MPH, but even then, watch a game past HS and please report to us if you see this happen on TV... 3) 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... 4) In-game homers over 96 offensive innings: 0, (tied 2018); hoping someone pops one next year... 5) Zero delays in on-field action, a big win for all, (tied 2018)!
Special Appearance x 5: 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 fifth 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!
Hall of Famer in the House: A firm handshake most certainly goes to the Hall of Fame Scout Lon Joyce (Dodgers), locked in as always during his 28th year as a professional scout after a successful run as a Hall of Fame coach too! A great mentor and fountain of knowledge, thank you for your support '21'!
- AA's Pitch: The 2019 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 publicy 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...Next: Our state is on the cusp of something that I believe is special. It has been a few years since our staff, scouts and college coaches have been as excited about what is coming down the pike as we presently are. Legit prospects are coming in our opinion. Time will tell of course but I look forward to my front row seat!
The DP staff would like to send out a giant fist-bump to the following:
Sleep Inn on Bush River Rd, "Will Power", LDH Sports, Rawlings, PalmettoSportsImaging.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!