June 18, 2013

Middleton area’s lone selection for Georgia

By Devin Golden

— In terms of representation, area high schools had a dominating presence in Saturday’s Stump on Sports Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Boys Soccer Classic.

For the baseball edition of this year’s all-star series, the opposite is true.

Northwest Whitfield’s Brady Middleton is the only player from Whitfield or Murray counties on the Peach State squad for Wednesday’s Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Baseball Classic, which follows a 5:30 p.m. home run derby among the players at Ridgeland High School in Rossville.

The Classic series features recent high school graduates mostly from northwestern Georgia and southeastern Tennessee in competition for border bragging rights.

Middleton was chosen The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Baseball Player of the Year this season after he finished his senior campaign with a .458 batting average, two home runs, 11 doubles, 17 RBIs and 35 runs. He was also a standout defensively at second base, finishing with a .946 fielding percentage and helping turn 19 doubles plays.

Middleton helped lead the Bruins to sub-region and region championships as they advanced to the state playoffs for the first time in six years, and he was picked by coaches for the All-Region 7-4A team after the season.

“I’m excited to play,” said Middleton, who will play at Berry College in Rome next year. “I’ve been missing the game the last couple of weeks and have been wanting to get back out on the field and play.”

But he won’t have much company from the immediate area.

“I thought there would be a few more (from the area) to make it on there that should’ve made it on there,” Middleton said. “I’m not really sure of the pool of players they were picking from, though, so it’s tough to say.”

The lack of area players is a noticeable contrast to one of the most recent matchups in this year’s series. In Saturday’s boys soccer game, 17 of Georgia’s 18 players — plus both of the team’s coaches, Northwest head coach Ryan Scoggins and Dalton assistant Jim Wickes — came from programs inside Whitfield County. But the county also had a tremendous year in boys soccer as Dalton, Northwest and Southeast each made the Class 4A state semifinals and Dalton and Southeast faced for the title, with Dalton winning.

When it came to baseball, Middleton’s Bruins had the best season of any area team, beating Atlanta’s Grady in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs before falling to Stephens County. Christian Heritage was the only other area school to make the state playoffs, losing in the first round of the Class A private school bracket.

Gordon Lee coach Mike Dunfee, who led his team to the Class A public school state championship this season, will coach Georgia’s squad. Dunfee said he selected players for the team by sending text messages to local coaches asking them to send in nominations of players who had been seniors this season that might be worthy of participating.

“I got some responses back. I listed them all out,” Dunfee said. “I’m the one that chose it.”

Of the 20 players, four are from McEachern High School, in Powder Springs, just south of Marietta. Among schools that have been represented in this year’s Classic series, McEachern is the farthest south.

McEachern coach Dan Torrenti is an assistant for this year’s Georgia team. He previously assisted Dunfee at Ridgeland and LaFayette, Dunfee said.

“It’s Georgia-Tennessee,” Dunfee said. “I asked him to bring a couple players up.”

This is the 12th year for the baseball contest. Tennessee leads 10-1 and owns a three-game winning streak.

The annual summer series started June 8 with football, a 10-7 Tennessee win, and continued June 10 with a split of two basketball matchups as Tennessee’s girls won 66-57 and Georgia’s boys won 76-74 in overtime. Both of Saturday’s soccer matches went Tennessee’s way, 5-2 in the girls game and 3-0 in the boys. Also remaining is the softball doubleheader, which is 6 p.m. Wednesday at Frost Stadium in Chattanooga.

Stump Martin, the Classics series creator, was a reporter for the Chattanooga News-Free Press and Chattanooga Times Free Press for 19 years and also was on ESPN Radio’s 105.1 The Zone in Chattanooga. He is managing editor of Friday Night Football Live Tennessee and co-owner of Tennessee’s high school Rivals.com website, TNVarsity.com. He has hosted “Stump on Sports Late Nite,” a live sports television show, for nearly 30 years.