GULF SHORES — The first of three straight weeks of Gulf Coast Classic action wrapped up last week at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex where the 71-team baseball tournament and 45-team softball …
GULF SHORES — The first of three straight weeks of Gulf Coast Classic action wrapped up last week at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex where the 71-team baseball tournament and 45-team softball tournament crowned the first of three champions.
Both trophies traveled back to the same school where the Tuscaloosa County Wildcats won both the baseball and softball championships from the first Gulf Coast Classic. The second event kicked off Monday morning with the third set for next week.
The first of the 23rd annual spring break tournaments brought baseball teams from Oklahoma, Tennessee, Mississippi and Florida as well as softball teams from Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi to compete against other Alabamian teams at the beach for four- and three-day competitions respectively.
Although some extra rain Sunday night into Monday threw a curveball at the opening day of operations, Gulf Shores head baseball coach Chris Jacks said he and his counterparts in the eight other host cities were able to work together. While five baseball games were postponed from Monday’s morning slate, all were rescheduled so every team played at least four games.
“There's no egos in baseball coaches,” Jacks said after the Dolphins’ win over Muskogee, Oklahoma Monday. “It's a win-win for them, they get to make money for their program through fundraising and we get to send teams there where they get to showcase their field to teams across the country. Really this is just good for Baldwin County baseball.”
All softball games were held in Gulf Shores between the six softball fields at the Sportsplex as well as Johnnie Simms Park.
The baseball games were played on 11 different fields in nine Baldwin County cities where Jacks coordinated with eight other local coaches including Ben Slaton in Orange Beach, Jordan Ebert in Foley, Peter Bezeredi in Robertsdale, Owen Davis in Elberta, Kyle Hunter in Fairhope, JD Pruitt in Spanish Fort and Trenton Higginbothem at Baldwin County High School in Bay Minette. Also in the northern part of the county, Brent Shelton at Coastal Alabama-South as well as Loxley Municipal Park hosted games throughout the week.
“We've been fortunate, all of the coaches in the county at all nine sites have worked hard and have gotten all of our games in,” Jacks said.
The current Dolphin skipper has been carrying on the vision started by Donnie Spohn who head coached the Gulf Shores baseball team for the first 13 seasons of its existence (1999-2013) and established the Gulf Coast Classic. After hosting the tournament for over two decades, Jacks said there is a well-established formula to pick the top four teams that play in the semifinals to eventually determine the champions.
“It comes down to head-to-head competition, the least amount of runs given up and then runs scored — we've got a little formula we figured out,” said Jacks in his seventh year at the helm. “Then we'll take the top four teams and they get after it.”
Jacks’ team has gotten after it to start the season so far and entered the week of play with an 11-6 record and ranked No. 5 in Prep Baseball Report’s Class 5A state rankings. Still, he said the Dolphins have not yet played their best baseball and that is exactly the plan.
“We feel like we've tested these guys and seen some good pitching and we’ve just got to keep putting it together because we want to play our best in the middle of April,” Jacks said. “We want to play our best when Elberta comes here (April 7) for what should be the area championship and get in the playoffs and start peaking around then. We have not peaked which is a good thing, we don't want to peak just yet.”
The next Gulf Coast Classic baseball tournaments are scheduled for March 20-23 and March 27-30. The next softball tournaments are set for March 20-22 and March 27-29 back at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex.