Lexington and A.C. Flora begin play in the 23rd annual International Paper Baseball Classic on Thursday at Mike Johnson Park in Georgetown.
Lexington defeated Flora in an all-Midlands tournament title game last season.
The event features seven ranked teams in the eight-team field. The only team not in the Top 10 is host Georgetown. The 4A division includes No. 1 Lexington, No. 4 Mauldin, No. 5 Conway and No. 6 Wando. Defending state champion Flora is No. 3 in the pre-season ranking. No. 2 Greenville and No. 6 Greenville are the other ranked team in the 3A division.
Lexington opens the tournament with a 2 p.m. game with Mauldin, while Flora and Greenville close out the first day of play at 8:45 p.m.
Lexington opened the season with a 10-0 win over Irmo on Monday.
A.C. Flora’s IP Classic opener is also the Falcons 2013 season opener.
The Falcons return eight regulars from last season’s 25-7 team that put it together in the final month of the season. ACF 14 of its last 15 games after a 1-3 showing at its own Forest Acres Classic spring break tournament, including an and 8-0 run in the state playoffs. The Falcons claimed their third state title under coach Andy Hallett with a championship series sweep of Fort Mill.
Schroder Carlton and Jake Lewis are the veteran leaders of the team. Both are four-year varsity starters. Carlton (.349, 26 R, 14 RBI) is back in center field, while Lewis (.423, 27 R, 31 RBI) is back at first base.
Seniors Davis Funderburk and Matt Wallace return as the anchors of the pitching staff. Funderburk (3-1, 1 save, 2.95 ERA) and Wallace (8-0, 1 save, 1.24) were the staff workhorses behind graduated ace Player Loving.
Junior Connor Desmond, Everett Eynon and Madison Stokes and sophomore Donald Gillespie round out the returning cast. Desmond is back in right field and looking to contribute more offensively this season. Eynon (.222, 18 R, 13 RBI) and Strokes (. 198, 13 RBI) are back in the infield, but could be at new positions. Eynon started at second back last season with Stokes at third. Gillespie (.301, 12 R, 26 RBI) is making an unusual transition from shortstop to catcher. He started as an eighth-grader at third base.