By Thomas Sellers Jr.
County pride and bragging rights were on the line May 28 on the diamond of USA Stadium.
The issue was settled between 40 of the best players from the area in the 2013 State Farm Shelby County All-Star Baseball Game between the Private School Stars and Public School Stars. Last year the Private School Stars pulled away for victory.
In the second annual edition of the showdown, the Private Team watched a 4-1 lead disappear. Then had to comeback twice before winning 9-6.
The Private School MVP was Briarcrest’s Grayson Ponder. The unsigned hurler was one of the pitchers to keep the Public School scoreless for our innings.
“It feels good to shut them out, get up there and give them nothing to hit,” Ponder said.
Ponder and his fellow Private School pitchers kept the Public Stars scoreless in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. But the Public School grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning couresty of a Andy Bowman (Arlington) single driving in Bolton’s Garrett Copeland.
The Private School took the advantage on the scoreboard in the second inning. ECS’ Brent Rooker tied the contest at 1-1 with a single to score CBHS’ Tyler Lawrence. Then with the bases loaded, Riley Echols drew a walk that brought the go-ahead run across the plate.
Then Mike Halley (CBHS) and Jack Hurdle (Harding) produced RBIs with a walk and sacrifice fly respectively. The Private Schools were ahead 4-1.
That score held until the sixth inning when the Public School Stars loaded the bases. And White Station product Gardner Rudolph stepped to the plate.
“Bases were loaded and it was a full count, so I expected to get something to hit,” Rudolph recalled. “So I turned on it and it went down the line. It was a good feeling coming through for our Public School guys. It’s a great bunch of guys here in the dugout. So it was a great feeling.”
Rudolph’s three-run double tied the game and helped earn him the Public School MVP award. The unsigned outfielder said he was glad to represent himself, school, team and city in a good way.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I wanted to show I could play with all the other guys out here. I knew I could and it does mean a lot to represent Memphis City Schools tonight for White Station and all the schools.”
It appeared for a moment Rudolph’s magical moment would be negated in the Private School’s half of the sixth inning. Hurdle singled in a run to regaing the lead for the Private Team at 5-4.
The Public Stars had another rally on deck. This time Bartlett speedster Chaise Claudio got them started by reaching base. Then the Dyersburg State signee stole second and an overthrow allowed him to take third.
Then his teammate Chase Hamilton (Arlington) hit the ball into the outfield causing an error. Claudio scored to tie the game at 5-5.
The next batter at the plate was Collierville’s Dillon Callicott. Fresh off winning the Class 3A State title the previous week, Callicott was clutch again hitting a chopper over third base to score Hamilton. The Public Stars had the lead again at 6-5.
But the finally rally of the night came courtesy of the Private Schools in the eighth inning. MUS’ Jordan Rodgers singled in a run to make the score 6-6. The Private Stars scored the winning run when TRA’s Brandon Mitson crossed home plate on a pass ball. And error allowed two more runs to score for the Private School.
“We had to play as a team and get the bat on the ball,” Ponder said. “It feels good to have the bragging rights one more year.”
The Private Stars improve to 2-0 in the All-Star game at USA Stadium. Johnny Ray, USA Stadium director, said a special thanks goes out to the players and coaches, sponsors and State Farm agents Jack Leonard and Chris Ford for making the game possible.
Rudolph said he is grateful to all the people who made the 2013 Shelby County All-Star possible.
“To be selected as an All-Star is a culmination of a four-year high school career of excellence on the field and academics,” he concluded. “It’s an honor to be out here and play with all these guys. It was a great time and I’ll never forget it.”
The Private School All-Stars were Jordan Rodgers (MUS), Michael Halley (CBHS), West Covington (SBA), Matt Bolton (MUS), Dalton Dulin (MUS), Michael Ince (Briarcrest), Riley Echols (Harding), Tyler Lawrence (CBHS), Jack Hurdle (Harding), Jacob Johnson (TRA), Chris Carrier (CBHS), Riley Kilgore (CBHS), Parks Flowers (Harding), Brent Rooker (ECS), Brandon Mitson (TRA), Brandon Wilhelm (CBHS), Grayson Ponder (Briarcrest), Andrew Plunkett (MUS) and Matthew Mills (FACS).
The Public School All-Stars were Evan Fantom (Arlington), Gardner Rudolph (White Station), Ridge Smith (Germantown), Brandon Hicks (Collierville), Chaise Claudio (Bartlett), Josh Kennedy (Houston), Garrett Copeland (Bolton), Andy Bowman (Arlington), Colton Spicer (Bolton), Chase Hamilton (Arlington), Caleb Fain (Cordova), Trey Keppen (Germantown), Blake Berrios (Arlington), Shane Lantigua (Bartlett), Peyton Sanderlin (Collierville), Dillon Callicott (Collierville), Joseph Spicer (White Station), Nic Roubidoux (Collierville), Dillon Symon (Houston) and Ryan Kern (Houston).