About three dozen competitors displayed their baseball skills on a recent Saturday at St. Andrew’s Parks and Playground’s Brinker Field.
They all were hoping to earn a trip to Atlanta to compete in Pitch, Hit & Run, Major League Baseball’s official skills competition.
They get six chances to pitch and hit the strike zone, three shots at hitting a baseball off a tee that will be scored on distance and accuracy, and how long it takes to run the bases from second to home.
Each Major League Baseball team holds sectionals. The Atlanta Braves cover a six-state region that includes South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. Scores from the six-state sectionals are compared, and the top three in each age division travel to Atlanta. The winners then are introduced at a Braves game with their photo and name flashed on the giant scoreboard. Scores from all 30 Major League Baseball competitions then are compared with the top participants invited to compete as part of the All-Star Game festivities.
Two years ago, Jackson White of James Island qualified in the 11-12 age group to go to Atlanta and won the competition. Unfortunately, his score wasn’t quite high enough to make it to the All-Star game.
“Jackson was seventh overall. He missed out, but he still did well. I think 500,000 kids participated, so getting seventh doesn’t sound so bad,” said his mother, Pam White. The entire family, Jackson, his mom, his father, Jim, and older brother Zan, made the trip.
“It’s such a gift to be able to do something that unique. It was very exciting,” Pam White added.
Jackson White, a Mason Prep eighth-grader who played junior varsity baseball for James Island Charter High School, is hoping for a return trip again this year. He won the sectional title in the 13-14 age group this year by the narrowest of margins, beating Derek Sireci by one point, 1,110-1,109. Sireci, who made it to the sectional event as a Mount Pleasant winner, went to Atlanta last year and finished second in the 11-12 age group.
If White makes it, it will be thanks to his bat. Participants hit from a tee and score based on their overall distance minus the distance from the center line. His first of three attempts sailed out of Brinker Field, slowing down the competition while the judges scrambled outside the fence to measure.
The second one was better, staying within the field but closer to the center line and giving him a score of 246 feet. In the running portion, his time was 6.82 seconds. In pitching, he hit the target two out of six times.
“If I’d hit it 2 feet shorter, I wouldn’t have won,” White said. “I was trying to get back to Atlanta, but with only two pitches, I’m not sure that will happen.”
Following are Pitch, Hit & Run Sectionals results for St. Andrew’s Parks and Playground:
1. Matty Brown, West Ashley, 494
2. Trenton Handegan, West Ashley, 384
3. Johnathan Gunn, Mount Pleasant, 330
1. Jenna Walling, West Ashley, 175
2. Giovanna Plumley, West Ashley, 150
1. Michael Petry, Mount Pleasant, 840
2. Nathan Slesinski, Mount Pleasant, 803
3. Anthony Doscher, West Ashley, 535
1. Mary Austin, West Ashley, 284
2. Rynne Welch, West Ashley, 150
1. Kaedin Grissom, Beaufort, 836
2. Drayton Green, Mount Pleasant, 828
3. Gavin Marler, Beaufort, 712
1. Clarke Brunson, Mount Pleasant, 238
1. Jackson White, West Ashley, 1110
2. Derek Sireci, Mount Pleasant, 1109
3. Kyle Lanning, Beaufort, 985
Clarke Brunson of Mount Pleasant was the 11-12 girls champion in the sectional qualifying.×
Tim Orvin sets up a new batting tee after Pitch, Hit & Run participants broke one during sectional qualifying.×
Jackson White watches after hitting a ball over the fence at the Pitch, Hit & Run sectional event.×
Jackson White releases the ball during Pitch, Hit & Run sectional qualifying. Tommy Braswell/Staff×