NORMAN — The fourth annual Heartland Baseball Classic didn't get off to the start officials had hoped for Monday. After an early morning storm, the Southmoore High School diamond was not ready for the opening ceremonies or the accompanying home run derby.
Now, the home run champion will be determined by the player who hits the most home runs during the tournament.
If the diamonds at Norman North, Norman High and Southmoore recover and the weather cooperates, the tournament will begin at 3 p.m. today when Georgia and Texas meet at Southmoore.
Fans will notice a few changes from past summers. With seven teams participating rather than the customary eight, the
Classic has become a round-robin tourney today through Thursday, one in which each team will play every other team once.
The results of the round-robin will determine the seedings of bracket play, which begins Friday, with the third-place game and championship scheduled for noon and 3:30 p.m. at Norman High.
“With the loss of Team Arizona, it was difficult to find a replacement on short notice,” said tournament president Sherri Rogers. “States that we contacted felt that they would need a full year to be able to fund a team’s travel to Oklahoma as well as deciding on how to select a team. As a board we decided to go with seven teams this year and changed the format to make this happen.”
The seven teams that will make up the tournament field include Team Oklahoma, Team Georgia, Team Colorado, Team Arkansas, Team Maryland, Team Ohio and Team Texas.
Team Arizona backed out this summer due to financial issues.
Each team is made up of top high school players from that state. One local player representing Team Oklahoma is Southmoore’s Tre Edwards.
“I’m very excited,” Edwards said. “This is something I have been watching since I was 3. I always told my family that I’d love to play in this. I found out about it two weeks ago.”
Edwards will be attending Arkansas in the fall, where he will continue his baseball career with the Razorbacks.
While the format has changed, the talent the teams bring with them has not. Texas has 12 players who have signed to play Division I baseball next season. Some of them include Kramer Robertson (LSU), Josh Sawyer (Villanova) and Ryan Hendrix (Texas A&M).
Ohio is just as stacked with players such as Adam Niemeyer (Ohio State), Griffin Weir (Stanford) and Dan Rowbottom (Illinois).
Joining Edwards on Team Oklahoma is Joe Smith (Kansas State) and Norman North’s Austin Crawford, who still has his senior year awaiting him with the Timberwolves.
“I don’t know if people realize the quality of the talent on these teams as they are all Division I NCAA athletes who are going on to college and play ball as well as some who will go on to play professionally,” Rogers said. “Also, we want people to come out as we have games going at three venues and it is free to attend.”
Before heading off to join the Razorbacks, being able to play for his home state one last time is a special treat for Edwards, especially after all his home town of Moore has been through over the past month due to the May 20th tornado. A silent auction is being held through Thursday, with all proceeds going toward the Southmoore athletic department.
“It’s really a pride thing,” Edwards said. “It’s important not to just have fun in this tourney but also win this for your state. Especially after this tornado. I’m going to try to help bring it back.”
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