Sumter County 12U Baseball All-Stars win first GRPA state championship in 33 years

Published 3:36 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2023

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From Staff Reports


STATESBORO, GA – The last time a Sumter County recreation baseball team (SC) won a 12U state championship was 33 years ago in 1990. Perhaps the rainy week in Statesboro was a sign of the things to come as the drought is over. History repeated itself this baseball season as the Sumter County (SC) 12U All Star baseball team captured the 2023 12U Georgia Recreation and Parks Association (GRPA) State Championship during the weekend of June 20 through 23.

The team first had to face an enormous task of beating Colquitt County in Moultrie for the only chance to advance to the State tournament. The boys responded by playing one of their best games of the All-Star season and beating Moultrie 11-10 to win the 12U District Championship. With their ticket to State punched, the boys from Sumter were able to head to Statesboro with the confidence of knowing they can beat anyone, anywhere and it paid off in spades.

Under clouding skies, SC opened with the 12U Effingham County All-Star team and won 13-0 behind a combined no hitter from pitchers Noah Hosley, Luke Lamberth, and Gage Norman. Christian Blanchard, Mason Dowdey and Clay Hicks each had two hits to lead the offense for SC. SC also was also extremely aggressive on the base pads led by Layton Shropshire and Drew Reeves.

Next up for SC was Wayne County (WC): the 2022 12U State Runner Up. Coming into the game, WC had outscored its opponents by a combined score of 95-2 and was undefeated at nine wins and zero losses. Runs would be a little hard to come by in this game for WC and that was apparent in the first inning when Noah Hosley threw the ball from centerfield to catcher David Guest to get the unsuspecting WC runner out at home plate, keeping the boys from Jessup scoreless in the inning.

Clay Hicks took the mound and went four innings strong with Easton Stuckey coming on to close the game out for SC in an 8-5 win. Clay Hicks, Gage Norman, Mason Dowdey and David Guest led the SC offense and Drew Reeves led the way on the base pads for SC. The win put SC in the driver’s seat as they were now one win away from reaching the State championship game.


Matthew Owens of the Sumter County 12U All-Stars records the final out of the State Championship game in SC’s win over Wayne County.
Photo by Shannan Blanchard

At this point, the only things standing between Sumter and a State title was the host, Bulloch County and a soggy field.  Bulloch was riding high as they knocked out the 2022 State Champion Vidalia All-Stars. SC started out slow as Bulloch raced out to a 1-0 lead until the top of the third when Christian Blanchard, David Guest, Clay Hicks, Easton Stuckey, Mason Dowdey, Gage Norman and Noah Hosley all reached base. Their efforts propelled SC to a 4-1 lead.  It wasn’t long until Guest would add to it with a two-run double. SC once again had strong pitching as Matthew Owens, Christian Blanchard, Mason Dowdey and Luke Lamberth all pitched in the game, giving up only three runs to clinch SC’s spot in the championship game with a 6-3 win.


Gage Norman is seen here batting for the Sumter County 12U All-Stars.
Photo by Shannan Blanchard

As fate would have it, the clouds parted and the rain subsided as Wayne County (WC) battled their way back to the championship game. All the pieces were in place for a rematch of the 2021 10U State championship between WC and SC. SC came into the game needing only one win to claim the 2023 State championship. WC had revenge on their minds and jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Like he had done the whole all star season, Hampton Lloyd started a rally that led to two runs for SC, but that was the lone bright spot in the game for SC as WC would win 13-2, setting up a winner takes all State Championship game.

The measure of a man is not his size but his heart. Someone forgot to tell SC that they were supposed to lose, or that Wayne County was too good to be beat, perhaps the boys from Sumter were just expected to roll over and play dead after a 13-2 game. However much like David of Nazareth, the boys of SC picked up a ball and defeated their own giants. Head Coach Mike Reeves gave the ball to Christian Blanchard who proceeded to pitch the game of his life. SC’s David Guest led the game off with a base hit. Two batters later, Easton Stuckey hit a double to give SC a 1-0 lead they never relinquished. Christian Blanchard would lead off the second inning with a double and was driven in by David Guest who also doubled to give SC a 2-0 lead. In the bottom of the second inning, however, WC began to strike back with a solo homerun to make the score 2-1. The score would remain 2-1 until the top of the fourth when Luke Lamberth drove in Noah Hosley to make the score 3-1. David Guest would then drive in Luke Lamberth and Christian Blanchard with a single, making the score 5-1 in favor of SC. In the bottom of the fourth, Wayne County would answer as their offense came storming back with two runs of their own.


Noah Hosley of the Sumter County 12U All-Stars is seen here sliding home safely.
Photo by Shannan Blanchard

Sumter County, who was coached by Mike Reeves, Steve Norman, and Matt Owens, had a plan going into the game. The plan was to get a lead over Wayne County and get the ball to pitcher Clay Hicks in the fifth inning. The coaches’ plan came together with the efforts of Christian Blanchard and the SC offense. Clay Hicks came in and slammed the door on Wayne County, recording the last six outs on 17 pitches and one amazing catch from Matthew Owens. SC got 6-3, a repeat of the score from the 2021 10U State Championship game between Sumter and Wayne.

Clay Hicks was able to shut down Wayne County in the latter innings to seal the state championship for Sumter County.
Photo by Shannan Blanchard

This group of 12 year olds leaves behind three Hawkinsville Tournament Championships, two District Championships and two GRPA State Championships. They’ve compiled a record of five wins and one loss against Colquitt County and a record of four wins and two losses against Wayne County: two state powers in GRPA baseball.