This year's Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Baseball Classic may have had a new name, but the game provided its usual exciting moments as recent graduates from the southeast Tennessee area took on their counterparts from northwest Georgia in the 18th annual diamond showcase on Thursday night.
In the end, Team Tennessee was able to scratch out two runs in the top of the ninth inning to pick up a 4-2 victory in the newly-christened Stump Martin Memorial Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Baseball Classic at Ridgeland High School.
The Volunteer State stars took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Zane Howard (Lookout Valley) led off the game with a double against Peach State starter Jake Bearden (Northwest Whitfield). Howard would take third on a throwing error at the end of the play before scoring on a one-out ground ball to second off the bat of Harrison Travis (Soddy-Daisy).
Pitcher Dakota Bandy (Heritage) would work his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the third, but Tennessee would push home another run in the top of the fifth inning.
Alex Rollins (Hixson) drew a leadoff walk against pitcher Javier Favela (Southeast Whitfield). Rollins would later steal second and take third on a passed ball before he came home on a one-out grounder off the bat of Greyson Linderman (Baylor).
Team Georgia left three runners in scoring position before finally breaking through in the bottom of the sixth inning against Tennessee reliever Issac Moulds (East Hamilton).
Murphy Flood (Southeast Whitfield) ripped a one-out single and Tanner Hill (Ridgeland) walked to set the table for pinch-hitter David Ramirez (Northwest). Ramirez would rifle a single to right to bring in Flood and send courtesy runner Donovan Sims (Coahulla Creek) to second base. Sims would then steal third before scampering home on a passed ball to tie the game, 2-2.
That would be all the scoring until the top of the ninth when Tennessee would manufacturer the go-ahead runs against pitcher Riley Harrison (Ridgeland).
Harrison would strike out three batters in the inning, but a leadoff walk and a hit batsman would get things going for Tennessee. Ryan Goivengo (Bradley Central) would race home on a fielding error which put Landon Wallace (Hixson) at third base.
Wallace bolted for home after a pitch got through to the backstop. Hill, the Georgia catcher, scampered to retrieve the ball and threw to Harrison covering the plate. However, Wallace was ruled to have gotten under the tag on a very close play at the plate, giving Tennessee an extra insurance run.
Georgia would get a two-out baserunner off an error in the bottom of the ninth, but Jack Julian (Hixson), the hard-throwing Middle Tennessee State signee, would get his sixth and final strikeout of the game to seal the victory.
Julian, named the Tennessee Player of the Game, got the win after pitching the final three innings. He allowed just one hit on the evening and struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh.
Singles by Chad Marsh (McCallie) and Pierce Durham (East Hamilton) were the only other hits of the night for Team Tennessee.
Seven pitchers toed the rubber for Georgia with Harrison suffering the tough-luck loss. Harrison, along with Bearden, also had singles. Ramirez was 2-for-2 with an RBI and was named the Georgia Player of the Game.
John James (LaFayette) threw an impressive inning in relief, striking out two of the three batters he faced in the top of the seventh, while Bearden won the pregame home run derby, defeating Hill and Harrison in a tiebreaking round.
The game was played in honor of Martin, a coach and champion of youth sports in the Tri-State area, who passed away on May 10, 2018. Several players in Thursday's game played baseball for Martin early in their careers. Martin's wife, Deb, and daughter, Misty, were also on hand for the game, which began with Deb Martin throwing out the game's ceremonial first pitch.