Middle school baseball ended in mid-April, but the county's finest seventh- and eighth-graders took the diamond one last time this season for the first-ever Columbia County Middle School All-Star Baseball Game.
The one-day event showcased the county's best middle school players Sunday evening at Evans High School. The 30 middle school athletes didn't disappoint their fans and coaches, providing a competitive and evenly matched baseball game that came down to the final at-bat.
"It's good to see the talent coming up in Columbia County," former Greenbrier High School baseball star Mark Thornhill said. "The future's looking bright."
Thornhill coached the Columbia County West Team on Sunday, while former Evans High standout Clint Sauls led the East Team.
The West Team held the lead for most of the game and took a 5-4 advantage into the bottom half of the final inning. The East Team stole the game with two runs in its final at-bat.
Columbia Middle School shortstop Matt Blume drove in the game-winning run with a single just under the glove of the West Team second baseman for a 6-5 East win.
The All-Star Game's MVP was Evans Middle's Tevin Nelson, and the Pitcher of the Game was Eddie Letbetter - the lone representative from Grovetown Middle.
"I was definitely surprised," Letbetter said. "So far, this is the best competition that I've seen."
Letbetter threw one inning of shutout ball in the win, giving up only two hits and no walks.
For the West Team, Evans Middle's Tyler Barden hit the longest shot of the day with a ground-rule double that bounced over the left-field fence just short of the 333-foot sign.
Sauls said the hitting, pitching and fielding were all impressive.
"You don't usually see that level of play from middle schoolers - not in any other county," he said. "This shows why the high school teams are so good. The middle schools are preparing these boys for the next level."
Middle school baseball players from Augusta Christian Schools, Columbia Middle, Evans Middle, Greenbrier Middle, Lakeside Middle, Riverside Middle and Grovetown Middle participated in the event.
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