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Baseball: South to compete at USA Baseball National High School Invitational
South Forsyth's Landon Sims rounds first base after hitting a double in the first inning of the War Eagles' game against North Forsyth on March 13, 2018 at South Forsyth High School. - photo by Ben Hendren

South Forsyth’s baseball team showed the best Forsyth County had to offer in the sport to the rest of the state last year, and come this spring, the War Eagles will have an opportunity to demonstrate their prowess to the rest of the nation.

On Tuesday, USA Baseball announced that South would be one of 16 participants in the 2019 National High School Invitational, set to take place at the organization’s national training complex in Cary, N.C. from April 3-6. The single-elimination tournament will feature some of the best talent from around the country.

South is the second Forsyth team to compete in the event over the last four years, with Lambert making the trip back in 2015. South is one of two Georgia teams invited to this year’s edition, the other being Blessed Trinity.

“For the boys, it's a reflection of what they've accomplished and who they are,” South baseball coach Russ Bayer said. “It's a great reflection of the region we play in and the schools in the community. It was a wonderful opportunity that you don't really pass on.”

Back in October, USA Baseball’s Matt Blood called Bayer to invite his squad to the event. Typically, the tournament falls around region play, which can cause some scheduling conflicts -- Lambert had to shuffle its schedule around before its appearance. This year, though, it took place during spring break, allowing the War Eagles to make it with no issues. After consulting with the booster club and the school, they got the green light.

“We had a couple of days to make the decision on if we could go,” Bayer said. “I'd like to think that people don't turn it down, but he gave us a window of opportunity to see if we could make it. Obviously, having a couple of higher profile players really helped with the consideration. Things kind of fell into place from there.”

South pitcher and Mississippi State signee Landon Sims, ranked the No. 60 prospect by Baseball America, has been in the national spotlight before. He’ll figure to be a primary player on the War Eagles' roster that other teams and MLB scouts in attendance will be keying in on.

Blessed Trinity shortstop CJ Abrams, who is committed to Alabama, is ranked No. 3. IMG Academy from Bradenton, Fla. will field four prospects in BA’s Top 200, including pitcher Brennan Malone and third baseman Rece Hinds, who are committed to North Carolina and LSU, respectively. Hagerty High School from Oviedo, Fla. will field No. 3 prospect Riley Greene, an outfielder committed to Florida. Last year's NHSI saw six individual participants go in the first round of the MLB Draft.

For Bayer, facing one particular team in attendance, Marist High School from Chicago, could be significant. It was a program he played against during his high school playing days in Illinois, and now he has a chance to face them again as a coach.

“They were obviously a very reputable program then,” Bayer said. “Personally, I'm looking forward to that. From a national standpoint you look at the other 15 schools that are invited, most of them have been nationally recognized for the last 15 to 20 years. Anyone who's in the high school scene knows the names and knows what they're all about.”