2023 Steve Sanders Tournament Concludes
The 2023 Steve Sanders Spartanburg County Preseason Baseball Tournament is in the books, which means that the high school baseball season is underway! The tournament featured a loaded field on 4 brackets played at 4 different sites.
After some weather complications with the Bill Metcalf Bracket that postponed all Friday games and forced 2 of Saturday’s scheduled games to be played Monday (but the weather once again had the last say, pushing them back to Tuesday night), the 3rd place and championship games were played on Wednesday night at Duncan Park.
The 3rd place game featured 2 teams that look to be on the path to be “dark horses” this season. While it is a bit asinine to read into preseason rankings, neither of these 2 teams were not touted or given much fanfare. But, in Spartanburg’s case, there was not a coach locally that didn’t pick them to be the team that will turn some heads this season.
The talent was already in place. The Vikings have been a fairly young team the last few years. Ace Pitcher/DH Ian Squires, 1st baseman Donterian Davis, Outfielder Joe Cash, Catcher Garrett Fulmer, Shortstop States Farr, Outfielder Andrew Dantin, etc all outline a roster full of returnees, and they can all slug it – particularly the guys in the middle of the lineup. They all showcased that perfectly in this tournament.
Gaffney also showed to have some offensive prowess during the bracket stage, scoring 23 runs. Their pitching and defense was fair as well, surrendering just 8 runs. With Squires already having been used as a starter, Spartanburg was going to have to DH him and use him out of the bullpen in a limited role. Gaffney opted to use Scout Gilfillan on the bump.
Gilfillan managed to make it through 2 innings untouched, but was somewhat living on the edge. He pitched to contact and induced 4 fly ball outs. But all 4 of them were solid contact. It seemed as if the Vikings would eventually run into one that would go out.
After Chase Staley led off the 3rd with a walk, Peyton Naylor got hit by a pitch and Tyler Stevenson reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Joe Cash drove in the game’s first run with a sac fly to center. The game was all but put away on the next swing.
Garrett Fulmer crushed the first pitch he saw out of left field and into the trees beyond the old aluminum outfield fence at Duncan Park for an absolute missile of a 3 run homer.
The Vikings offense only continued to add on as the game went on, slugging their way to 12 runs on 12 hits. Viking pitching combined to strike out 8 Gaffney hitters while surrendering just 1 run on a solo shot by Indian shortstop Bayley Black in the bottom of the 6th inning. They gave up 4 hits in total with just 3 free passes.
Besides the Fulmer homer, Spartanburg was also led by Ian Squires, who went 1 for 5 with 3 RBIs, as well as Joe Cash, who was 0-2 with 2 RBIs – both of which came via some small ball on a pair of sac flies.
The championship game matchup was between a pair of teams that went undefeated through their brackets – Boiling Springs and Blue Ridge.
The Bulldogs, ranked #9 in the preseason 5A rankings, despite losing Tristan and Ashton Smith as well as Davis Starnes after last season, still return plenty of speed and offense as well a wealth of depth on the pitching side of things. That last sentence could be a copy/paste from years past. That is what you come to expect out of Boiling Springs baseball year in and year out. That consistency is why they are such a well-respected program and are perennially a contender.
Blue Ridge is also a perennial contender on the 3A level that is always strong at the plate. Shockingly enough, they did not go 3-0 in the bracket with a ton of offense. They averaged just 5 runs per game through the pool while pitching 2 shutouts and holding Pickens to just 3 runs. But, when you have good hitters like Travis Henson’s squad does, you are capable of having an offensive explosion at any moment.
Unfortunately for Boiling Springs, that moment was one the Tigers were due for. The Bulldogs used ace Jackson Cole against Chapman on Saturday night, meaning he was only available for a spot start or a bullpen appearance. Jeff Lipscomb and his staff opted to use him as an “opener”, pitching 2 innings with 3 strikeouts and a walk. Kyle Dill came in to relieve him and ran into some trouble after a leadoff single and 2 quick outs. Cade Norton unloaded a fly ball that just kept carrying out of left field for a 2 run homer to give the Tigers the early lead.
Boiling Springs responded with a rally in the bottom of the 4th. Catcher Hudson Wilson led off with a single. First Baseman Corben Childers followed it with a double, and then Jackson Reel singled to get the Bulldogs on the board. Jackson Cole grounded to 1st and reached on the fielders choice as they gunned out Childers at the plate for the 1st out. The Dogs tied the game when Reel trotted home on a wild pitch.
The Bulldogs worked the bases loaded after a Landon Stephens got plunked and Justin Dawkins drew a walk, but they ended up leaving all 3 on, killing what would be their only chance to take a lead in the game.
Corben Childers came in to pitch the following half inning, and to sum it up as briefly as possible, Blue Ridge got to him. They struck him for a 7 spot, with 4 hits and 2 walks.
In the end, the Tigers run ruled the Bulldogs in 6 innings 13-3. Aj Camarotta and Alex Kiniry combined to shut the bulldogs bats down, surrendering just 3 runs on 6 hits with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. Cade Norton and Drew Culpepper led the way at the dish for Blue Ridge with a combined 7 RBIs on a 4-6 joint effort.
The Jacksons – Reel and Cole led Boiling Springs, together going 2-6 with 2 RBIs. Corben Childers went 2 for 3 at the plate
Here are the coaches’ selections for the All-Tournament Team :
Steve Sanders Spartanburg County All Tournament Team 2023