Sr. Team Ga. gets its turn

With some of the state's top junior and sophomore baseball players having already shown what they can do on national stages, it is now Senior Team Georgia's turn.

Seven players from Gwinnett County and surrounding areas will be among the 20-member squad competing against seven other teams at the newly christened Heartland Baseball Classic, which begins play today and runs through Saturday in Norman, Okla.

The tournament, formerly known as the Sunbelt Senior Baseball Classic, will pit Team Georgia against teams from Arkansas, Arizona, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas, as well as Canada in sites throughout Norman, including the University of Oklahoma's L. Dale Mitchell Park.

While the teams are mostly made up of recently graduated seniors, such as first-team Daily Post All-County selections Grant Earls and Chris McGowan of Collins Hill and Mill Creek's Greg Brody, this year's team also features a handful of players who just completed their junior year in high school.

Among that group is a pair of players who starred at Hebron Christian in Dacula as juniors this past season, infielder Danny Lockhart and right-handed pitcher Kevin Burgee.

Lockhart, the son of former major league infielder Keith Lockhart, is eagerly looking forward to competing against the older competition to help him make improvements to help the Lions during his senior season.

"I was surprised when I was asked (to work with the senior team)," said Lockhart, who earned first-team All-County honors after hitting a county-best .568 with seven home runs, 43 RBIs, 45 runs scored, 17 stolen bases and a 1.673 OPS this spring. "I'm really excited. It will be a good experience for me and something I'll remember for a long time."

Lockhart also made a big decision just prior to leaving for Oklahoma with Team Georgia, giving a verbal commitment to play college baseball at Kennesaw State.

"They've been with me for awhile," said Lockhart, who chose the Owls over scholarship offers from Alabama-Birmingham and North Georgia and recent interest from Mississippi State. "They were the most persistent. And I played over there in a tournament when I was younger, and I thought it would be cool to play over there. And then the offer came along."

KSU coach Mike Sansing has had a strong recruiting presence in the area in recent years, with former Gwinnett stars Ronnie Freeman of Brookwood and Chris Wages of Providence Christian already on the team.

In addition, Dylan Ivey -- one of two Winder-Barrow players, along with left-handed pitcher Clint Spratlin, who will be teammates with Lockhart on Senior Team Georgia -- and Max Pentecost -- another Winder-Barrow player who was on Junior Team Georgia -- have also committed to KSU.