By: Austin Alexander - August 14-15, 2021
-Northwest wins idle in dramatic fashion; Scouts return in full force-
This past weekend, our 14th Annual Palmetto Games was an amazing celebration of high school baseball in South Carolina, yet again! One Hundred plus college coaches and professional scouts, along with our state's top talent found their way to Sumter’s Riley Park. With an immaculate playing surface prepared for us and first-class hospitality at our beckoned call, the talent on the field matched all the preparation behind the scenes!
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 positional 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, then followed by games.
It has become a running theme 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. On Saturday, mid-90's and mostly sunny (heat index 110) allowed us to execute our game plan, thus setting the stage for some quality dudes to do their thing...until lightning struck. A long day became longer but we got everything in! Day 2 morning came with an ominous forecast…Folks, this is the Palmetto Games, it's never without a threat! The afternoon session came with 2 rain delays that equaled about 30 minutes because at Riley Park, these 'keepers of the park' value every minute in maintaining the kids on the field. Their playing surface and staff salvaged Sunday action, again!
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 second straight year the champion was decided in the final frame of Game 6. With the Midwest needing to win by six runs, they entered the final inning clinging to a 8-2 lead. If they relinquished one run, the tie-breaker would not favor them. Legion Collegiate's Jack Killelea's two-run homer silenced any celebration on the other side and clinched the Palmetto Games title for the Northwest club. They were piloted by Crescent's Blair Carson whose club went 2-0 scoring 13 runs while surrendering 3. It was their 2nd Palmetto Games championship and first since 2009. Congratulations to Team Northwest!
Taking our top awards during the weekend were the following: Legion Collegiate 2023 Devin Parks (left, Most Outstanding Player) whose three doubles among his four hits paced the OPS category... Eastside's Brody Fowler (right) only threw one inning (2 K) but it was the most impressive frame 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 5th annual "JY" Heavy Hitter Award was issued to a guy whose offensive prowess is just continuing to astound scouts, Lexington 2022 Nathan Hall (left, 4-for-4, BB, 3 R, 3 RBI). Congratulations to each winner with a stage loaded with legit guys who can play!
The TO Award: Within a month following 2015 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 15 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 James Island's Keillor Osbon. Of note, Osbon's mother Paige passed away on December 30, 2020 of breast cancer. (pictured together).
Swift Stuff: A total of 30 arms worked at 88+MPH, 10 more hitting the magic number 90+, with one bolt from Dorman's Hudson Lee and Darlington's Shemar Simes (Darlington) topping the list at 92 MPH, followed by a handful touching 91...A solid number of 39 runners shot through the finish line at under 7.0 seconds, atop that list was Oceanside Collegiate 2023 Cameron Sebuck (6.53), followed by Brent Gibbs at (6.59).
-Palmetto Games History Made-
1) An inside move resulted in a double play. Then with two outs, the side was retired on the next offering, one pitch and three outs but no triple play...2) Four weather delays resulting in roughly 60 minutes of downtime, still finished ahead of schedule on Sunday...3) We have never had an in-game batted ball hit, clear or graze the scoreboard. On Saturday, 2023 Tagger Tyson tagged one that did, with the dimensions at Riley Park, it traveled every bit of 385'+!
Sumter Hospitality 2.0: After 12 years as the Palmetto Games’ home, USC had to pull the plug for Covid reasons about six weeks before last year's event. Yours truly was thrown into a tailspin…but Al Harris with the City of Sumter came to the rescue! Round 1 was such a positive experience, we decided to come back for more. From the moment that we ‘shook hands’ over the phone, he and his staff were nothing short of outstanding from the beginning stages of planning, leading up to and through our finishline too. Every member of his staff took this weekend as seriously as we did, which is appreciated beyond imagine. Special shout out to Brock McDaniel and Bill Lyons as well, you were each a stud prior to and during…we could not have pulled this off without you!
Special MVP Guest: Sumter’s own and 1960 World Series MVP Bobby Richardson was on-hand to speak prior to Game 1 on Saturday for the second straight year. What an honor! The soon-to-be 86-year old former head coach at USC, Coastal Carolina and Liberty delivered an amazing 12-minute speech telling stories of Mickey Mantle and his life in baseball. Following that, he prayed over everyone in the stands and players before we began the event. Thank you to Bill Lyons for setting that up and bringing a legend in front of us all again. Was a LEGIT thrill for my father too, his childhood hero (left)!
Twitter, Etc: Shout out, Cory Welch, John Whittle and Lee Thomas-wow, thanks for taking the lead with pics and posting at a torrid pace all weekend. Even a commitment that landed while the player was on the field! Outstanding job even when the bullets were being fired, each performed at Five Tool level!
AA's Pitch: The 2021 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 publicly 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 an additional giant fist-bump to the following: Post 15 Baseball, City of Sumter+, Comfort Suites, Hampton Inn, LDH Sports, Rawlings, I.T.S. Sports, Chick-fil-A, Anchor Bat Company, Bill Petty, Marc Buffkin, Tim Johnson, Lee Alexander, Meredith Welch & Rita Alexander