What began as a way for a few local high schools to spend their spring break on the diamond has blossomed into one of the country’s oldest and biggest spring break baseball tournaments.
The Hanahan Invitational Tournament turns 50 years old this week as 38 teams from several states compete for two championships, starting on Monday at nine different schools in the Lowcountry.
Tournament director Brian Mitchell, Hanahan’s head baseball coach, says the 38-team field is the second largest in the history of the event. Forty teams is the record for participating teams.
The event has two divisions named for two former Hanahan coaches who helped build the initial popularity of the tournament
Tom Hatfield began the HIT in 1970 with a handful of Lowcountry high schools. Bill Steadman succeeded Hatfield at Hanahan and was responsible for growing the event into one of the nation’s top spring break tournaments.
“It has certainly become one of the big events around this area, especially for high school baseball,” Mitchell said. “It takes a lot of hard work to pull off such a big event and we are so thankful for the cooperation we get from all of our local schools who host as sites.”
Steadman opened the tournament to out-of-state schools and was successful in attracting major high school programs from the state of Florida, including national powers Miami Senior and Westminster Christian, for a number of years. The tournament eventually began to add high schools from North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky and New Jersey.
The 2019 field includes 21 teams from the Palmetto State and teams from New York, Virginia, and North Carolina. Matching up spring breaks is the biggest challenge in attracting teams, which has varied the number of teams from year to year.
“We do face challenges every year as it continues to grow,” said Mitchell, who took over as Hanahan's head coach and tournament director in 2003. “There are a lot of expenses involved and our entry fee ($300) is still one of the lowest of all these spring break tournaments.
"Unless you have some corporate sponsorships, these spring break tournaments are getting harder and harder to do. We spend about $9,000 on umpires alone and field costs are going up as well. But we will make it work because it’s a great event. The work involved is worth it.”
Bishop England and Ashley Ridge are the defending champions. Bishop England defeated Wando in the Hatfield Division finals last April, while Ashley Ridge topped Hanahan in the Steadman Division finals.
Games begin on Monday with teams playing three games in their respective pools. The semifinals for each division are Wednesday with the two championship games scheduled for Thursday evening.
The tournament also includes a 14-team junior varsity event with the championship game played on Friday. Cane Bay defeated Wando in the junior varsity title game last year.
50th annual HIT schedule (Monday)
At Ashley Ridge
2 p.m. – Hilton Head vs. Lewis County, Va.
5 p.m. – Patriot, Va., vs. Greenville, SC
7:30 p.m. – Winner game 1 vs. Ashley Ridge
At West Ashley
4 p.m. – Madison, Va. vs. Traveler’s Rest, SC
6:30 p.m. – Ocean Lakes, Va. vs. West Ashley
5 p.m. – Riverside, Va. vs. Beaufort
7:30 p.m. – Summerville vs. Nansemond River, Va.
At Northwood Academy (Wando bracket)
1:30 p.m. – Philip Simmons vs. Hickory Grove, NC
5:30 p.m. – Maury, Va. vs. Mamaroneck, NY
7:45 p.m. – Game 1 winner vs. Wando
5 p.m. – Academic Magnet vs. Cox, Va.
7:30 p.m. – Game 1 winner vs. Berkeley
2 p.m. – First Baptist vs. AC Reynolds, NC
5 p.m. – South Lakes, Va. vs. Fort Dorchester
7:30 p.m. – Game 1 winner vs. Hanahan
At Bishop England
5 p.m. – Stratford vs. Oakton, Va.
7:30 p.m. – Bishop England vs. West Springfield, Va.
At Northwood (James Island bracket)
11 a.m. – White Plains, NY vs. Westwood, SC
At James Island
5 p.m. – Brookland-Cayce, SC vs. James Robinson, Va.
7:30 p.m. – Game 1 winner vs. James Island