The Gwinnett Braves open the International League season on April 4, but fans don't have to wait that long to catch great baseball action at Coolray Field. On March 8 and 9, the home of the G-Braves will host ten of the top high school baseball teams in Gwinnett County for a first-ever showcase event. The games will mark the first played at Coolray Field in 2013, its fifth season of existence.
Coolray Field has opened its doors to many high school games in the past, however, this two-day event is an expanded showcase packed with powerhouse teams and players. Six of the ten teams featured on the bill made the playoffs last season, while two of those six made it to their respective state finals game.
"We've had singular events before, showcasing some top high school baseball teams in the area," said Gwinnett Braves General Manager North Johnson. "Through the efforts of the community and our staff we have expanded to welcome the largest high school showcase in the history of Coolray Field. We want Coolray Field to be an outlet for the entire county and surrounding areas so they can take part in this one-of-a-kind experience. Our goal is to continue to provide these life-changing memories and for this showcase to grow into an annual event."
The event will kick off with the South Gwinnett Comets and Mountain View Bears, as they play at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 8. South Gwinnett and Mountain View both missed the playoffs a year ago, but were strong in their respective regions, both finishing the season at .500. This year, both teams are off to strong starts as the Comets are 2-1 and the Bears are 3-0.
The nightcap will feature Lanier High School (0-2) and North Gwinnett (1-1) at 6:30 p.m. Lanier is coming off a 15-12 season, which was cut short in the first round of the Division 4-A playoffs by Ringgold High School. North Gwinnett sported an impressive 17-12 record, but their season was cut short by Brookwood High School in a competitive best-of-three series which saw Brookwood take two of three games from the Bulldogs.
On Saturday, March 9, Division 1A champion Providence Christian Academy High School opens up the festivities as they play Duluth High School at 2:00 p.m. The Storm finished a stellar season a year ago as they went 27-12 in route Division 1-A championship. Duluth finished the 2012 season on a sour note, going 9-17. However, Coach Matthew Champitto, who coached the 2012 Under Armour High School All-American Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, is back at the helm and is looking to regain the form that saw his Wildcats post a 20-12 record in 2011.
"We are excited to get back on the field," said head coach Champitto. "I think playing at Coolray Field is a great opportunity for our kids, our school and our community. I know that our team has been looking forward to playing on a minor league field ever since we scheduled it. You are getting arguably the top two regions in the state playing in the showcase, which will make for an exciting weekend of baseball."
Following the first game, Collins Hill will have its hands full as they will play Brookwood High at 4:30 p.m. Collins Hill is coming off a solid 2012 season as they made the Division 5-A playoffs, falling to eventual champion Parkview. Brookwood received a similar fate as they were ousted by Parkview in the finals of the Division 5-A championship. Brookwood High School and Braves Country are very familiar with each other as their ace pitcher last season, Lucas Sims, was the first round selection of the Atlanta Braves in last year's Amateur Draft. Sims is one of the top arms in the Braves system and could follow in his former high school teammates footsteps and play at Coolray Field in the future.
The last game of the showcase will match North Forsyth and Peachtree Ridge. North Forsyth had a rough year with a 10-19 record, their first losing season since 2007. Peachtree Ridge, meanwhile, had a great 2012 season, going 18-11 before falling to Grayson High School in the Division 5-A playoffs. Both teams will have the unique opportunity to play under the lights as they cap an exciting weekend of baseball.
"Our entire staff is excited about starting baseball back up at Coolray Field," added Ticket Sales Manager Ryan Moore. "We are thrilled to be able to showcase the talents of the top local players and giving the players memories that will last a lifetime. From our grounds crew on the field to our game entertainment department in the control room, everyone is gearing up to make this day the best possible."
Tickets for the showcase are on sale now. Two-day passes can be purchased for $15, while adult tickets are $10 and student tickets with ID are $5. For more information about the event or how to get tickets, contact the Coolray Field Box Office at 678-277-0340 or visit gwinnettbraves.com.