With a muscular, 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame and a powerful fastball, there was little doubt that recent East Hamilton graduate Patrick Parris would be headed to play college baseball this fall.
Throughout the 2012 season, though, there was no word as to where or at what level. Then, when Parris and the Hurricanes were knocked out unexpectedly from postseason play in early May, his attention toward the next step was forced to increase.
The big right-hander was good enough in the spring to earn District 6-AA’s player of the year award. This summer, though, he’s been trying to impress a different class of coaches.
His decision has been narrowed, with nearby junior college Walters State leading the way, but Tuesday night, he showcased that college potential at the high school level one last time.
At Ooltewah’s A.C. Bud Ball Field, Parris started and threw two shutout innings in the 11th annual Stump on Sports All-Star Baseball Classic. Tennessee beat Georgia for the 10th time in the series, taking a somewhat sloppy game 3-2.
“I was just hoping to see a bunch of guys I hadn’t seen in a while, all the guys from Ooltewah,” said Parris, who threw to Ooltewah catcher T.J. Binder in the first two innings. “While the high school season is going on we’ve got a bunch of rivalries, but in the end we’re all friends.
“It was great just coming out here, having the opportunity to throw two innings against some great guys from Georgia. It was just a great experience. ”
The all-star game for Parris came as a reprieve from the college search and summer league games with the Chattanooga Baseball Club. With the start of his freshman year in college only a few weeks away, though, the narrowing of choices is never far from his mind.
“It’s been a good (process),” Parris said. “(East Hamilton coach Steve) Garland called coach (Joey) Seaver, the pitching coach at Walters State, and I went up there and did a workout for him. He showed me around the school and I really liked it a lot.”
Parris said he also has a visit scheduled to Brevard College, a Division II school in western North Carolina, but he’s leaning heavily toward Walters.
“The biggest thing I’m looking for is just a good relationship with the coach,” Parris said. “I really like coach Seaver, and I think I would fit in well there.”
In Tuesday’s game, Parris struck out one and gave up just one hit in the first two innings, before handing the ball off to a long string of pitchers that continued to stifle the Georgia lineup.
Tennessee went through six pitchers as head coach Brian Hitchcox tried to get each player on his 23-man roster a spot in the game.
“There were a couple of sleepless nights trying to figure it all out,” said Hitchcox, who’s the head coach at Ooltewah. “That was definitely one of the goals, to get everybody in there and let them show people what they can do.
“I coached against a lot of these guys for so long that you know how good they are and you know what they can do. I’m glad that it’s finally to my benefit.”
The Tennessee offense struggled to find help for its pitching staff, leaving the bases loaded in three different innings. The runs came from an error in the first and a bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning, but the teams were tied entering the seventh. Tennessee loaded the bases again in the bottom of the seventh, and when Matt Allen’s (South Pittsburg) grounder to shortstop was bobbled, Soddy-Daisy’s Dalton Rogers came home with the winning run.
“These guys are good, they’re here for a reason,” Hitchcox said. “We knew it would probably be a low-scoring game, and it’s fun to see those guys be on your side for a change.”
As Parris packed his bag and changed out of his uniform in the Ooltewah dugout after the game, other players filed out of dugout and into the parking lot. The pitcher’s final sentiment resonated among all of them.
“I’m going to miss it, but I’m looking forward to taking the next step,” Parris said. “I’m glad that something is falling into place right now.”