The Valdosta Daily Times
This weekend, youth baseball teams from Georgia, Florida and Alabama will be competing in the USSSA Southern Elite 8 NIT baseball tournament.
The tournament will take place at Freedom Park in Valdosta and the South Lowndes Recreation Complex in Lake Park, and will feature 48 teams with players between the ages of 9-14 years old.
The 9-, 11-, 12- and 13-year-old tournaments will be held at Freedom Park. The 10-year-olds and the 14-year-olds will play at South Lowndes.
“If you want to (see) some of the best nine-year-olds to 14-year-olds that play baseball, come to Freedom Park and South Lowndes Park. We’ve got the USSSA Southern Elite 8 NIT,” George Page, the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority director, said. “It will be the highest quality of talent that will be in our town.”
The tournament will begin today at 8:30 a.m. Games will last most of the day, with the last games scheduled to start at 7:20 p.m., weather permitting. Each team will play three games today and at least one game on Sunday.
Each team will play four pool games against teams from other states. The top four teams in each pool will advance to a single elimination tournament.
Most of the Georgia teams are from metro Atlanta, with several hailing from Cobb County. One team, the Georgia Nationals, are from Cordele. Another team, the Stealth Chain, are from Albany and the PSDS Yankees Gray are from neighboring Lee County. The Columbia County Bulldogs are from the Augusta area. The Big Stix Gamers are from Hampton, which is located in between Macon and Atlanta.
The Florida teams include teams from Orlando, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Tampa, Daytona Beach, Gainesville, Panama City, Destin and Lakeland. The Alabama group includes teams from Dothan and Valley, Ala.
“The majority of these teams have to qualify (for this tournament),” Page said. “Some of these teams are some of the best (USSSA) teams in the nation.”
Page is excited that Lowndes County has the opportunity to host a USSSA tournament. And he pointed out that the tournament will have a good economic impact on the area.
“There will be 48 teams from outside of Valdosta-Lowndes County that will be here a minimum of two nights,” he said. “So we’re looking at close to 1,500 room nights along here this weekend.”
The USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) sanctions competitions in baseball, basketball, fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball, flag football, golf, lacrosse, martial arts, soccer, volleyball and wrestling. According to the USSSA’s baseball website, usssabaseball.org, “The primary focus of USSSA Baseball is the development of programs that allow teams of all skill levels to compete against one another. USSSA believes the overall development of all players can be enhanced by the experience and fun of national tournament play.”