2009 RBI Preview


By: DP Staff Writer – March 4, 2009

Anyone who is unable to attend the IP Classic but still wants to see quality prep baseball should plan to camp out at White Knoll High School starting Thursday afternoon. Coach Jonny Thompson and his staff have changed the name and format of their preseason tournament to give it more of a "tournament" feel. What has been known previously as the Michelin Classic (played over 7 days) has been transformed into the Red Bank Invitational (RBI) and will now be played during a four-day period. The RBI will not take precedent over the prestigious IP Classic but with the quality of the field assembled, it will run a close second.

This year’s field consists of seven AAAA Schools and perennial AAA power A.C. Flora.

Every school in the field touts top prospects, quality coaching and potential to make a deep run in the playoffs in 2009.

Here is a capsule of the 2009 field:

WattsD-stance07.JPGLaurens Raiders – Coach Dale Nelson and company come in to the RBI off back-to-back Region Championships and District Finals appearances. They are led by Travis Burnside (SMC) and Dre Watts (CofC), right. The Raiders have a talented group around these two stud arms and are a strong candidate to compete for the Upper State title. Laurens will also call on outfielder Adam Taylor and junior infielder Tori Patterson to produce in the line-up this season.

joynert-head08.jpgWhite Knoll Timberwolves – Coach Jonny Thompson and staff are looking to continue their strong success of the last two seasons. The Wolves, once again, find themselves without their "ace" returning on the bump but have several quality arms who are ready to get the job done. Seniors Corey Holmes (FDT) and Todd Joyner (FDT), left, will combine to lead the offensive punch for the Wolves. Infielder Josh Sealey provides a plus glove in the middle infield and Austin Dunn will anchor the staff behind the plate, while junior Zack Smith will hold down the 3-hole.

brunsonj-head08.jpgSpring Valley Vikings – The Vikings roll into the RBI after sharing the Region title in 2008. Senior LHP Jake Zokan (CofC) will give the Vikings a strong chance to win every time he has the ball in his hands. Along with Zokan, outfielders Jeremiah Jackson (USC-Salk), Joc Brunson (right) and catcher Andrew Floyd will give the Vikings a strong senior class. INF/RHP Jared Keels will combine with several other underclassmen to help round out Coach Charlie Wentzky’s squad.

houserd-head08.jpgA.C. Flora Falcons – After appearing in back-to-back AAA State Finals (2007 Champs) the Falcons bring a strong resume to the table. Coach Andy Hallett’s squad was, again depleted by graduation, but they have a solid group ready to step in and keep the program in tip-top shape. Seniors Alex Mitchell and Joseph O’steen will combine with Russell Gahagen to anchor the rotation. Senior James Newman and Junior Connor Lewis will provide the thump in the Falcons order. The Falcons will also rely on the dependable Duy Phan at short and to help set the table for the power bats. Flora also has one of the state’s top freshman in David Houser (left).

mcinnisj-sign08.jpgLexington Wildcats – Coach Tommy Mishoe will, yet again, have a strong club in 2009. The Wildcats have to replace Gus White (Wofford) on the bump, but have a foursome who are capable of doing the job. Seniors Robert Hendrix (Limestone) and Derek Smith will team with juniors John McInnis (right) and Alex Brooks to lead the Wildcat rotation. Senior Matt Van Lann (Charleston Southern) arm injury will hamper him in ’09 and prove to be a void in the lineup. Lexington is the defending champion of this tournament and has the potential to win it again.

balderman.chad.jpgDutch Fork Siver Foxes – Coach Randy Johnson is in his first year at the helm of the Dutch Fork program after taking over for legendary Coach Al Berry. Coach Johnson inherited a group that lost three seniors off last years Region Co-Champion team. Seniors Chad Balderman (Limestone), left, and Tyler Martin (Mars Hill) will team with Matt Radford (Jr) to give the Foxes a quality front line staff. Limestone commitment, Will Keel (Sr), provides a quality glove in the middle infield and brings a few years experience to table. Switch-hitting catcher Ryan McPhail will anchor the team behind the dish to continue Silver Fox tradition of having a solid backstop.

hanzlik1.jpgBlythewood Bengals – The Bengals will head into AAAA for the first time in the school’s existence this season. Coach Barry Mizzell’s team will use the experience they gained from its Upper State runner-up finish a year ago. Senior Michael Hanzlik (Gardner Webb), left, will lead a young staff that will also feature senior Will Smith. Daniel Andreu (USC-Sumter) will team with Hanzlik to provide a solid middle infield for the Bengals. Offensively the Bengals will be led by USC commitment Grayson Greiner (Soph). Although the Bengals are making the step up to AAAA this season, they have the talent to be competitive immediately.

bucknerjeremy-stance09.jpgSumter Gamecocks – After losing the battery of Matt Price (USC) and Tony Micklon (PC), many programs would struggle the following year. However, Coach Brooks Shumake will have plenty of able bodies to fill in and several returners who are back for what seems like the sixth year! Junior Stephen Curtis will provide power to the Gamecock order and will also give the Cocks a solid pitcher on the bump. Curtis will team with junior Tyler Smith and Bruce Caldwell (Soph) to give the Gamecocks a solid staff. Caldwell and Stephen Stafford will also help pace the offensive unit for the Gamecocks. If history holds true, count on Coach Shumake to have another young diamond in the rough this year contributing for his squad, it may just be sophomore Jeremy Buckner (right).

For updated information stemming from this tourney, click here.