SPRINGFIELD — After a one-year absence, the Panama City Invitational baseball tournament returns next week. And with some heavy hitters.
In addition to Mosley leading the county contingent with an 11-1 record thus far, host Rutherford and Arnold will be competing against some ballclubs with impressive credentials.
Thompson, Ala., is 16-4 and ranked third in the recent Class 6A state poll. Gardendale, Ala., is 9-3 and coming off a 24-win season. Include Tallahassee schools Leon and Florida High and Heritage, Tenn., and the eight-team field should showcase some outstanding baseball when the four-day event begins Monday at the Vera Shamplain Complex at Rutherford.
Admission is $5 per day.
Rutherford edge Mosley to win the 2011 title, and the Rams are 5-3 after consecutive losses. They boast a veteran lineup, however, with Nick Nelson hitting .517 and already boasting 20 RBIs and Tyler Chatman at .429 and Dondrayas Harris hitting .400.
Mosley has made the most noise locally with three quality starting pitchers in Joey Hair, Andrew Deramo and Austin Bizzle. The Dolphins have a veteran squad with Brady Bell batting .512, Bowen McGuffin .478, Jordan Larry .470 and Logan Quimuyog with two home runs and 16 RBIs.
Arnold has started slow after a 14-win season, but recently been bolstered by the return of Juan Ulloa who is hitting .667 after missing about a month. Sean Reichert is hitting .333 for the Marlins, 1-6.
Gardendale returns six starters from a team that won its region as well as the county championship for Birmingham schools. The Rockets are led by pitchers Carter Burns, Chris Walton and Bryce Jay. Jay also is among Gardendale’s top hitters with Joseph Calvert and Chris Blakely bolstering the offense.
Thompson features a pitching staff with a combined 2.27 ERA led by Jake Walters who is 5-0 with 50 strikeouts and 0.85 ERA in 33 innings. Jackson Cofer is 4-0 with 24 strikeouts in 24 innings, Mason MacDougal 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA, Hunter Rigney 2-1 with two saves and a 1.98 ERA and Peyton Johnson 1-0 with two saves.
Leading hitters are senior Trevor Flynn at .375, freshman Heath Haskins .342, senior Houston Davenport .310 and 10 RBIs, junior Drew Avans .306 and 14 RBIs and junior Mel Harwell .304 and nine RBIs.
Schools are divided into two four-team pools with each team guaranteed three games and place games for fifth, third and first scheduled for Thursday, March 21.
Pool A: Rutherford, Arnold, Thompson, Ala., Florida High
Pool B: Heritage, Tenn., Mosley, Leon, Gardendale, Ala.
Monday — Heritage vs. Gardendale 11:30 a.m., Mosley vs. Leon 2 p.m., Arnold vs. Thompson 4:30 p.m., Rutherford vs. Florida High 7 p.m.
Tuesday: Leon vs. Gardendale noon, Thompson vs. Florida High 2:30 p.m., Heritage vs. Mosley 5 p.m., Rutherford vs. Arnold 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Heritage vs. Leon 11:30 a.m., Rutherford vs. Thompson 2 p.m., Arnold vs. Florida High 4:30 p.m., Mosley vs. Gardendale 7 p.m.
Thursday: Fifth-place game 1 p.m., third-place game 3:30 p.m., championship game 6 p.m.
Panhandle Open track
The Panhandle Open track and field meet originally scheduled for Feb. 23 at Tommy Oliver Stadium until postponed by adverse weather will be run on Monday afternoon in Panama City.