By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published July 6, 2017
CUMMING–Pinecrest Academy’s Will Patota was one of 20 top juniors in the state selected to represent Team Georgia in the Sunbelt Classic Baseball Series, June 9-14, in Atoka and McAlester, Oklahoma.
The Sunbelt Classic has been around since 1977 when it first started as an all-star baseball series between Oklahoma and California. After 1988 other states started to join and the series now includes Georgia, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and northern neighbor Canada.
Patota, who mainly plays at first base, was nominated to Team Georgia by Bowdon High School head baseball coach, Todd Eubanks, and his own Pinecrest coach, Ryan Weingart. Eubanks saw Patota play on two occasions during the school year, once when Pinecrest faced off against Bowdon in mid-April. In that particular game Patota had three hits on four at bats, with one double, two home runs and six RBIs. Eubanks was impressed to the point that he told Patota that he would like to have him be a member of this year’s Team Georgia. After Eubanks consulted with the other Team Georgia coaches, Patota received a selection notification by the end of April.
On June 6 Team Georgia players practiced at The Lovett School, Atlanta, and played a scrimmage the following day against a Georgia travel team. After the game they packed up and traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, before heading off to Oklahoma. While there’s little time to gel, team chemistry comes together rather quickly because of each player’s skill level, knowledge of his role and gaining from the strength of each other’s feel for the game.
During the Sunbelt Classic each team plays each of the other nine teams once. After all of the games have been played, team records determine what game and place a team is competing for. For example, there’s a game for first and second place, third and fourth, etc. Missouri placed first this year, and Team Georgia finished in fifth place.
“It was a really good experience to face some of the top talent from across the country,” said Patota. “Each of us got better by seeing a lot of excellent competition, and my hitting improved because I faced a ton of outstanding pitching.” Like many former players who represented Georgia in the Sunbelt Classic, Patota hopes to play Division I baseball at a college or university.
Now that the Sunbelt Classic is over and until the season resumes once more at Pinecrest, Patota will see action on the baseball diamond as he plays on his travel team, Georgia Jackets 17U.
Patota wears uniform number 24 at Pinecrest, but as a Boston Red Sox fan, he prefers number 34 because he’s a big fan of former Boston first baseman and designated hitter David Ortiz. Patota ended this past season at Pinecrest with a .400 average, five home runs, eight doubles and 23 RBIs. He was also named 1st Team All Region, 2nd Team All County and 2nd Team All State.
Patota and his parents, Dianne and Michael, are members of St. Benedict Church, Johns Creek.