If you have a fancy for fast-pitch softball, the place to be on Monday and Tuesday is Summerville's Gahagan sports complex where the 24th annual Azalea Invitational Tournament is taking place.
All games played Monday and Tuesday the at Gahagan sports complex in Summerville. Games begin each day at 10 a.m.
Wade Hampton (Hampton)
Canon McMillian, Penn.
Science Hill, Tenn.
The prep softball event includes a field of 16 teams that will play five games over the two-day tournament. The brackets include several of the state's top programs, both locally and statewide, as well as a handful of out-of-state teams.
The tournament was the brainchild of former Summerville coach Tommy Waitt and former Walterboro coach Rusty Adams. Several years ago, the AIT was hailed as one of the largest spring break softball tournaments in the country, including as many as 40 teams. However, high school league regulations changed, limiting teams to five games during a tournament, thus decreasing interest somewhat.
"It used to be a three-day tournament and the team that won would usually play nine games to win the tournament," said Summerville softball coach and tournament director Heather Tucker. "The changing of the rules has basically limited what we can do. It's more like a weekend tournament but played during spring break now. It's still a great chance to see quality softball, though."
Boiling Springs beat Blythewood High in the tournament finals a year ago and went on to win the class AAAA state championship a month later. Neither of last year's finalists is in the field this year.
Tucker's softball team at Summerville enters the tournament this year as the favorite. The Green Wave are undefeated and ranked number one in class AAAA this season. There will be plenty of competition, however
Perennial local power Stratford is once again in the field, as is South Florence, a team ranked eighth in class AAAA in the latest statewide softball polls. The two lower state AAAA contenders are in the same pool and will play on Monday at 1 p.m.
Berkeley, a team contending for a region title locally this spring, is another local favorite in the field.
Chapin and Clover are quality teams from AAA and AAAA, respectively, along with traditional power Spring Valley out of Columbia.
The format has four pools of four teams. Each team will play three pool games on Monday and then teams will be placed into four championship brackets based on pool results. Each pool winner will play in the gold bracket, each of the four second-place pool teams will play in the silver bracket, third-place pool teams in the bronze bracket, and fourth-place pool teams in the white bracket.
Teams will play bracket semifinal games on Tuesday, followed by the championship game and consolation game for each bracket. Games begin each day at 10 a.m.