Spring Break baseball: Ashley hosts 11th annual tournament, Pirates sail to Cary for national event

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High school baseball will take center stage at Ashley High School over the next three days during the 11th Annual Spring Break Tournament in Monkey Junction. Sponsored by Coastal Athletics, action gets underway at 10:30 a.m. Monday, March 21. Four games will be played daily through Wednesday, March 23.

Ashley welcomes its crosstown rivals Hoggard, Laney and New Hanover to the ballpark, along with Robert E. Lee (Virginia), Langley (Virginia), Franklin (North Carolina) and Patriot (Virginia) High Schools.

Construction on Ashley’s new hitting facility is also expected to get underway on Monday. Donations for the project are still be accepted as the Screaming Eagles continue private efforts in getting its baseball and softball programs a new indoor cage.

Ashley High School pitcher Kevin Mintz. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
Ashley High School pitcher Kevin Mintz. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

While the Port City clubs look to fine tune some things during the break, the Pirates set sail for Cary on Tuesday ahead of Topsail’s appearance at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational (NHSI).

The 16-team, single-elimination championship tournament gets underway on Wednesday as the Pirates (6-1) take on Trinity Christian (Jacksonville, Florida). They play in the first game of the tournament at 10 a.m.

The event is being held at the USA Baseball National Training Complex and each team is guaranteed four games during the four-day competition.

“We’ve got some real tough competition ahead at this national tournament,” said Topsail Interim Coach Chris Blake. “It’s going to stretch us a little bit when it comes to pitching, but it’s always good to go up against tougher teams during the season to help us prepare for playoff time later on this spring.”

With four games in four days, pitching will be a key to Topsail’s success after losing most of its top arms from last year.  After jumping out to a 6-1 start in 2016, the Pirates will soon find out who will make a push to play a larger role on the staff.

Johnny Tartaglione. Photo courtesy- Harriet Rice.
Johnny Tartaglione. Photo courtesy- Harriet Rice.

Payton Rice has been slated as a top-of-the-rotation guy. After throwing just 13 innings as a junior, the 6-foot, 3-inch righty has shown a ton of confidence through three outings following a complete game shutout against New Hanover on Friday.  Freshman Aidan Smith has emerged as a potential conference starter, with Payton Phelps and Johnny Tartaglione getting big innings out of the bullpen.

“We’re looking for some guys to step up,” Blake added. “We need a couple more arms if we want to make a run. We’ll get a look at some others this week and look for them to do what we need them to do moving back into conference play next week.”

Seven of the NHSI games will be streamed on MLB.com. All games will be available through the GameChanger scoring app. The event schedule will be updated daily on the USABaseball.com. For those who wish to travel, a daily pass to the NHSI is $10. A tournament pass is $40 and kids under 12 get in free.

Read: Topsail to compete in USA Baseball national tournament for a look at the participants at the NHSI tournament.

Click here to watch USA Baseball’s preview on Topsail. For more details on this year’s USA Baseball National High School Invitational, log on to www.USABaseball.com.

Ashley High School Day One schedule

Game 1: Hoggard vs. Langley, Va. at 10:30 a.m.

Game 2: Laney vs. Franklin, N.C. at 1:30 p.m.

Game 3: New Hanover vs. Patriot, Va.  at 4:30 p.m.

Game 4: Ashley vs. Robert E. Lee, Va.  at 7:30 p.m.