McALESTER, Okla. — It's hard to improve upon perfection. However, that's the task facing Team Tennessee in the Junior Sunbelt Classic over the next several days.
Led by future Tennessee Volunteer baseball players Colton Harris and Andrew Lee, as well as a dozen other Div. I-bound prospects, the squad ran through the action out west last summer, going 10-0.
One verbally committed prospect contributed to that impressive run as well — Hayden Stone.
As a right-handed pitcher from the 2013 signing class, Stone had the opportunity to return this summer and pounced all over it.
"It's an honor really," Stone told InsideTennessee. "I'm really lucky to be out here two years in a row. I remember last year when I came, it was the greatest time of my life and I didn't want to miss out on it again, so I came back. We're here. It's a good time."
After being used to close out a handful of victories en route to the 2011 Classic title, Stone has shifted roles entirely and is the team's No. 1 starter — a role he doesn't take lightly.
"It means a lot to me. I don't know if you want to call it the ace or whatever but just being the guy to start it off means a lot to me as a player and to the team," said Stone, who committed to Vol coach Dave Serrano back in mid-January.
"I had a lot of fun out there trying to pound the zone, get ahead."
With the pearl in hand for the opener, the Columbia Central (Tenn.) High School standout didn't disappoint, registering three perfect innings with four strikeouts and a strike-to-walk ratio of 19:6. Five runs in the first two innings allowed Team Tennessee coaches to pull the future Vol in hopes of using him later in the tournament.
The team merely tacked on from there and run-ruled Team Mississippi 9-0 at McAlester High School on Friday morning.
Stone, who is starting to take on the role of a leader on the team, was pleased to notch a victory to get the ball rolling.
"I think it kind of gets everyone's feet wet, kind of puts us together as a team, gets us that first win under your belt. It just makes it a whole lot easier to play baseball, not try to go out there and press," he said.
In later action Friday, led by the mound efforts of University School of Jackson left-hander Ryan Garner, Team Tennessee defeated Oklahoma Blue 2-0.