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PG HS Showdowns invade LP

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The Cartersville Baseball team will participate in one of the nation’s top high school tournaments this week, held at LakePoint Sports Complex.  The Hurricanes will open up the tournament on Thursday, March 10th with Montverde Academy from Montverde, FL near Orlando.

Courtesy of PerfectGame.org –

PG HS Showdowns invade LP

Author:  Jeff Dahn                           Published:  Tuesday March 8, 2016

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – A year ago this week, the Parkview Panthers made the hour drive northwest from their school in Lilburn, Ga., to Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint and began to set in motion a run of victories that would ultimately result in a historic, Perfect Game High School National Championship season.

The Panthers won all four of their games in claiming the title at last year’s PG High School Showdown at LakePoint, left town with an 8-1 record and finished the season 34-2 following a late season 26-game winning streak. They’ll return to PG Park South on Thursday to see if they can conger up a little more magic, get a head of steam and make a repeat run to Georgia state and PG national championships.

Preseason No. 2-ranked Parkview headlines a field of 14 teams from five states at this week’s 4th annual PG High School Showdown, which runs Thursday through Saturday. The 3rd annual PG High School Showdown-Academies runs simultaneously at LakePoint, with 18 teams from seven states, Puerto Rico and Canada in attendance. That field includes two-time defending champion Faith Baptist Christian, a school with campuses in both Ludowici, Ga., and Brandon, Fla.

The PG HS Showdown features single-elimination bracket-play with the winning teams advancing from the first-round to the quarterfinals on Thursday, onto the semifinals Friday night, and finally to the championship game at noon on Saturday. Losing teams fall into the consolation bracket Friday and Saturday; every team is guaranteed four games, weather permitting.

Parkview beat Kennesaw Mountain (Ga.) HS in last year’s Showdown championship game (Kennesaw Mountain is not in this year’s field). Sarasota (Fla.) HS won in 2014, and in 2013, under the original format, Venice Senior HS was the Florida champion and Parkview was the Georgia champion. The event was held in Fort Myers, Fla., the first two years of its existence.

“It’s been a great experience; Perfect Game does a great job at what they do and we enjoyed every moment of it,” Parkview head coach Chan Brown said after last year’s championship game victory. “We came up here with a purpose to try to make a name for (ourselves), and the kids played extremely well.”

Nothing will be handed to the Panthers this week, of course, just like nothing has been handed to them so far this season – they come into the event with a 3-2 record. That mark might make them look vulnerable in the eyes of No. 3-ranked Oxford (Miss.) HS (5-1), No. 7 Buford (Ga.) HS (3-1), No. 20 Gulliver Prep (Miami, Fla.) HS (8-2) and No. 26 Cartersville (Ga.) HS (1-3) and the rest of the unranked field.

If the Oxford Chargers and Parkview Panthers should happen to faceoff, it might be a good idea to give U. of Mississippi head coach Mike Bianca a heads-up. Parkview’s top pitcher is 6-foot-5, 200-pound senior right-hander Will Ethridge, an Ole Miss signee, and if he pitches  in that matchup he just might be looking straight down the barrel at a bevy of his future teammates.

Oxford features four Ole Miss recruits – all seniors – in right-hander/third baseman Jason Barber, catcher/utility Thomas Dillard, shortstop Grae Kessinger and right-hander Houston Roth. Junior catcher/utility Ben Bianco and sophomore shortstop/utility Drew Bianco are also on the Chargers’ roster and it would seem likely that Mike’s sons will one day sign with Ole Miss, as well.

“They know what it takes to be successful and they’re obviously going to be really good players at the next level; we’re just really excited to have them all back for one more year,” Oxford head coach Chris Baughman told PG last month when asked about his Ole Miss recruits last month. “They’re a really talented group of baseball players and a really good group of guys.”

Although it was not ranked in PG’s HS Preseason Top 50 national rankings, IMG Academy (5-3) out of Bradenton, Fla., always draws a lot of interest due to its talent-laden roster. This year’s Ascender team includes seven prospects that have either signed with or committed to NCAA Division I schools, including senior infielder Michael Feliz and senior right-hander Anthony Holubecki, both of whom signed with Notre Dame.

The PG HS Showdown-Academies’ field is difficult to handicap simply because it is so diverse and far-flung. Seven academy teams from Georgia will compete at the tournament, as expected, but there are also two from Connecticut (Brunswick School, Greenwich; Cheshire Academy, Cheshire) and three from Puerto Rico (Bandits PR, Gurabo; NewMaldy Elite, Carolina; NewMaldy Team Elite, Cayey). Okotoks Dawgs Baseball Academy will make the trip south from its home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The Academies teams are placed in six, three-team pools, with each team playing pool games all day Thursday and Friday morning. The six-team playoffs begin Friday afternoon, semifinals are Friday night and the championship game is scheduled for noon on Saturday.

It’s difficult to bet against Faith Baptist at this event, considering it’s 2-for-2 in claiming PG HS Showdown-Academies championships; the Georgia-based Faith Baptist Christian Academy is off to a 10-2 start this season.

“Obviously, anything with Perfect Game on it, it’s a big event, so with us being a non-sanctioned school with no state championship (to play for), this is kind of what we build for – to come and play (at this event),” Faith Baptist head coach Gene Reynolds said after the Eagles dropped West Oaks Academy out of Orlando, Fla., in last year’s championship game. “We want to come here and compete well and hopefully have a good shot to win it.”

The Cheshire Academy roster looks interesting with four college-bound prospects: senior shortstop/right-hander Rich Gilbride (Sienna), senior right-hander/third baseman Austen Michel (Dartmouth), senior catcher/first baseman Cody Pasic (Maine)d and senior right-hander David Stiehl (Northeastern).

The PG HS Showdowns have become a mid-March must-do for many of the country’s elite high school programs, like the one at Parkview. It comes at the perfect time on the calendar, usually before most schools are getting into conference, league or district play and when teams are still trying to figure a few things out. Sometimes, like with Parkview in 2015, they get it figured out quickly and championships – even national ones – are the end result.

 

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