There won’t be a better region to watch high school baseball over the next week than in South Mississippi.
Starting Monday, 30 teams from Mississippi and Alabama will converge on the Coast for the inaugural Battle at the Beach baseball tournament.
The tournament, the brainchild of Biloxi coach Eddie Lofton, Gulfport’s Jamie McMahon and Ocean Springs’ Brian Rea, will run Monday through Saturday, with games at BHS, GHS, OSHS, St. Martin, D’Iberville and MGM Park.
“I’ve been working on this since April of last year,” Lofton said. “ I put it out there to a bunch of different coaches in the state and Alabama and it just blew up. It just really, really blew up.”
Lofton had high hopes for the tourney’s first year but the field has far surpassed his initial expectations. In addition to the Coast host teams, the field includes Resurrection, West Harrison, George County, Pascagoula, Hancock, Vancleave, East Central and Harrison Central. What makes the event special, Lofton said, is the blend of teams from Alabama (Theodore and Buckhunt) plus the central and northern Mississippi schools that are making the trek south.
In addition to using the Biloxi Shuckers MGM Park as a major selling point, getting a chance to spend a week at the beach while also getting important games in on the baseball diamond made the tournament a perfect fit for the schools.
“We have good baseball, but it’s a good spring break trip for these guys for three days,” McMahon said. “During baseball season it’s baseball every day, all the time. Now they can get out and mix in a vacation, too.”
Other Mississippi programs heading South this week will be Olive Branch, Southaven, Hernando, Madison–St. Joe, Tupelo, Warren Central, Terry, New Hope, Madison Ridgeland Academy, South Panola, Lafayette, Mooreville, DeSoto Central, Madison Central and Meridian.
“I can’t imagine another tournament anywhere being as quality from top to bottom for a whole week as this one,” Lofton said.
Though many of the top Coast teams enjoy battling one another weekly, breathing new life into their schedules with powerhouses such as Madison Central, Warren Central and others provides a unique opportunity. This week’s contests will be used as a barometer.
“We may never see them again or we may play them in the state championship,” McMahon said. “It’s fun to get outside the realm of the Coast and play some schools from Jackson and north of there. It’s fun to get out there and compete against someone different.”
The field at the tourney will features plenty of college talent. According to Perfect Game’s college commitment lists, 10 Division I–bound players from the rest of Mississippi are participating in this week’s field: Myles Christian (Olive Branch; Middle Tennessee); juniors South Sanders (Tupelo; Air Force), Aaron Greene (Warren Central; Ole Miss), Logan Savell (Madison Central; Ole Miss) and Regi Grace (Madison Central; Mississippi State); sophomores Ben Brantley (Hernando; Mississippi State), Farmer Abendroth (Warren Central; LSU) and Kamren James (DeSoto Central; Mississippi State); freshman Peyton Puckett (Tupelo; Mississippi State) and eighth-grader Blaze Jordan (DeSoto Central; Mississippi State).
Monday’s varsity slate will feature the following matchups:
▪ At Biloxi: Olive Branch–West Harrison, 5 p.m.; Biloxi–Olive Branch, 7:30 p.m.
▪ At Ocean Springs: George County–Buckhorn, 5 p.m.; Madison Ridgeland Academy, 7:30 p.m.
▪ At Gulfport: Gulfport–Southaven, 5 p.m.; Hernando; D’Iberville–Hernando, 7:30 p.m.
2017 Battle at the Beach varsity schedule
At Ocean Springs
At St. Martin
At MGM Park
Olive Branch vs. West Harrison
George County vs. Buckhorn
Gulfport vs. Southaven
Biloxi vs. Olive Branch
MRA vs. Buckhorn
Hernando vs. D’Iberville
Theodore vs. Southaven
MRA vs. Hernando
George County vs. Southaven
MRA vs. St. Martin
Olive Branch vs. Madison-St. Joe
Biloxi vs. Resurrection
Hancock vs. Tupelo
DeSoto Central vs. Madison-St. Joe
South Panola vs. Buckhorn
West Harrison vs. Hernando
Ocean Springs vs. Tupelo
South Panola vs. D’Iberville
Southaven vs. Madison-St. Joe
DeSoto Central vs. MRA
Hernando vs. Buckhorn
Tupelo vs. Pascagoula
Ocean Springs vs. South Panola
DeSoto Central vs. Harrison Central
Biloxi vs. Buckhorn
Gulfport vs. Theodore
Warren Central vs. Buckhorn
Terry vs. Mooreville
DeSoto Central vs. Ocean Springs
Madison Central vs. George County
Lafayette vs. St. Martin
New Hope vs. Harrison Central
Theodore vs. Mooreville
Meridian vs. Lafayette
New Hope vs. Madison Central
Warren Central vs. Lafayette
Terry vs. Biloxi
Hancock vs. Madison Central
George County vs. West Harrison
Pascagoula vs. Harrison Central
Gulfport vs. Warren Central
Biloxi vs. Warren Central
Vancleave vs. Mooreville
Terry vs. George County
Gulfport vs. Madison Central
East Central vs. Meridian
Ocean Springs vs. New Hope
East Central vs. Harrison Central
D’Iberville vs. Pascagoula
St. Martin vs. West Harrison