The winter sports season hasn’t yet concluded, but that isn’t stopping the start of baseball and softball season for several area high school teams. Midland Valley High School will once again play host to season-opening tournaments in both spring sport staples.


The Mustang Invitational will feature eight Palmetto State baseball teams, including three from the Aiken area. Even more regional squads will be participating in the Palmetto Classic, the eight-team softball tournament. Both events are scheduled to start play today, but the weather forecast isn’t promising. The Weather Channel’s reporting a 100 percent chance of precipitation today, but tournament organizers aren’t calling off the six games on the schedule – so far. It’s a matter of when the storms hit and how heavy the rains are that will determine if today’s games are postponed, but since this isn’t the first time Midland Valley has put these tournaments together, organizers were savvy enough to build in extra days in case of rain outs.


“We’ll move games to the first rainout day on Tuesday,” said Michelle Yeater, Midland Valley’s athletic director and head softball coach, who was optimistic storms wouldn’t wash out the first day. “We might get lucky and get it in. The main thing is we want to take care of the fields and get ready for Saturday.”


That’s because that’s the first full day of games, with four scheduled in baseball and softball. Midland Valley is one of four schools that will have teams competing in both tournaments, along with other area teams from Silver Bluff, Fox Creek and Barnwell. The other entrants in the Palmetto Classic include North Augusta, South Aiken, Saluda and White Knoll. The rest of the teams filling out the bracket in the Mustang Invitational are Ninety Six, Orangeburg-Wilkinson, James Island and Dixie.


There are no defending champions from last year’s events because after getting in a full week of games, the final day was rained out. While winning the tournament title is nice, it’s secondary to getting teams on the field and starting off the season.


“We want to kick start the season with five good games under team’s belts with officiating and against good opponents,” Yeater said of the tournaments that are scheduled to start today and conclude March 2 with a few days off built into the schedule. “The players perform and take it more serious than a scrimmage.”


There’s greater intensity in these games, even though coaches participating have the option of including the results on their final record – or not. Yeater said it’s not a coincidence that the teams that tend to fare well in the tournaments will counting the results and said it’s up to those involved to use the tournament to their advantage.


That’s just part of the plan to help get all teams involved off to a good start. It also has been such a staple at the start of the season because there’s no cost to the teams to participate. The entry fee is usually a dozen game balls.


“We just want to get everybody five games of good ball in,” said Yeater, who added that when the tournament runs on schedule it’s especially helpful because teams can play and get some time to go over what worked and what needs improvement without being bombarded by playing multiple games over the course of a day or two. “You can go back to practice and work on what you’ve seen.”


Should the rains hold off, today’s schedule in the Palmetto Classic includes games between Silver Bluff and North Augusta, Midland Valley and Saluda as well as Fox Creek vs. South Aiken. The last game will be played at Aiken Tech, which is also scheduled to host a games on Monday and March 1. Two baseball games will be played at Silver Bluff to help accommodate the full schedule.


Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.


MUSTANG INVITATIONAL


All games at Midland Valley High School unless otherwise noted


Today’s Games


• Midland Valley vs. Barnwell, 5 p.m.


• Silver Bluff vs. Dixie, 6 p.m.*


• James Island vs. Fox Creek, 7:30 p.m.


Saturday’s Games


• Orangeburg-Wilkinson vs. Barnwell, 11 a.m.


• James Island vs. Silver Bluff, 1:30 p.m.


• James Island vs. Dixie, 4 p.m.


• Midland Valley vs. Ninety Six, 6:30 p.m.


Monday’s Games


• Fox Creek vs. Dixie, 5 p.m.


• Barnwell vs. Ninety Six, 6 p.m.*


• Midland Valley vs. Orangeburg-Wilkinson, 7:30 p.m.


Wednesday’s Games


• Fox Creek vs. Silver Bluff, 5 p.m.


• Orangeburg-Wilkinson vs. Ninety Six, 7:30 p.m.


Thursday’s Games


• Fox Creek vs. Barnwell, 5 p.m.


• Silver Bluff vs. Ninety Six, 7:30 p.m.


Friday’s Games


• Midland Valley vs. Dixie, 5 p.m.


• James Island vs. Orangeburg-Wilkinson, 7:30 p.m.


March 2 Games


• 7th place vs. 8th place Game, 11 a.m.


• 5th place vs. 6th place Game, 2 p.m.


• 3rd place vs. 4th place Game, 5 p.m.


• Championship Game, 7:30 p.m.


* At Silver Bluff High School


PALMETTO CLASSIC


All games at Midland Valley High School unless otherwise noted


Today’s Games


• Silver Bluff vs. North Augusta, 5 p.m.


• Fox Creek vs. South Aiken, 6 p.m.*


• Saluda vs. Midland Valley, 7 p.m.


Saturday’s Games


• White Knoll vs. Silver Bluff, 11 a.m.


• Saluda vs. Barnwell, 1 p.m.


• North Augusta vs. Fox Creek, 3 p.m.


• Barnwell vs. Midland Valley, 5 p.m.


Monday’s Games


• North Augusta vs. Barnwell, 5 p.m.


• Fox Creek vs. White Knoll, 5 p.m.*


• Silver Bluff vs. Midland Valley, 7 p.m.


• Saluda vs. South Aiken, 7 p.m.*


Wednesday’s Games


• South Aiken vs. North Augusta, 5 p.m.


• Barnwell vs. White Knoll, 7 p.m.


Friday’s Games


• Silver Bluff vs. Fox Creek, 5 p.m.


• White Knoll vs. Saluda, 6 p.m.*


• South Aiken vs. Midland Valley, 7 p.m.


March 2 Games


• 7th place vs. 8th place Game, 10 a.m.


• 5th place vs. 6th place Game, Noon


• 3rd place vs. 4th place Game, 2 p.m.


• Championship Game, 4 p.m.


* At Aiken Tech