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Braves host regional Pitch, Hit & Run event

Special to

ATLANTA -- When Olivia Shaw, a Hoschton, Ga., native, stepped onto the field at SunTrust Park early Saturday morning, she wasn't very nervous, not that she should've been.

Shaw had been there before.

ATLANTA -- When Olivia Shaw, a Hoschton, Ga., native, stepped onto the field at SunTrust Park early Saturday morning, she wasn't very nervous, not that she should've been.

Shaw had been there before.

Every year, Scotts hosts the Pitch, Hit & Run event at all 30 Major League parks. Made up of three stages -- hitting, pitching and running -- 24 kids from ages 7 to 14 compete for a chance to go to the national competition held during All-Star Week festivities.

Shaw came into Saturday a three-time winner of the event, with a trip to the Midsummer Classic in 2015. She secured her fourth victory on Saturday, taking a competitive 13/14-year-old softball division that included another former national finalist.

"It's really cool just knowing that I'm on the same field as MLB players," Shaw said.

And there isn't a more competitive area than the one hosted by the Braves.

With the nearest stadium to SunTrust Park more than six hours away, the Braves have the largest region, encompassing Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and parts of Mississippi. Bennett Mayfield, the account director at LEJ Sports Group who helped run the event in Atlanta on Saturday, said that makes it the "toughest to get in."

Before participants even get to the MLB portion of the competition, they have to go through local trials, of which there are more than 4,500 in the U.S. and Canada. From there, top participants go to one of approximately 225-230 sectionals. Those feed to the competitions like the one held Saturday, with only three boys and three girls in each of the four age groups: 7/8, 9/10, 11/12 and 13/14.

The first event on Saturday, the one Shaw said is her best, was running. Each of the participants started on second base and ran around to home, clocking his or her time.

From there, participants went to the hitting event, and that's where 14-year-old Matthew Mebane stood out.

It was hard not to notice Mebane at the event, towering over the other participants at 6-foot-2. While Mebane was a first-time participant in this event, he wasn't unfamiliar with this kind of competition.

Mebane is a three-time finalist in the MLB Jr. Home Run Derby. He won two years ago and finished third in 2017. He has already qualified for the chance to regain his title in Washington this year.

During the hitting event, a tape measure is stretched across the center of the diamond and batters get three chances to hit a ball off a tee as far down the tape measure as they can. The tape was initially stretched about halfway out into center field, which proved to be a problem when Mebane came up. After he hit his third and furthest ball, it took several minutes to tally up the distance because they hadn't stretched it deep enough. That ball travelled 330 feet.

"It was special," Mebane said. "With the Home Run Derby, you're hitting live. But with the tees, it's really cool."

Finally, participants moved on to the pitching stage, which seemed to be the most nerve-wracking event for the participants, where they had to throw six balls at a strike zone zip tied to a net. Girls threw softballs from 35 feet, while the boys threw baseballs from 45 feet.

In all, these eight kids came away with the chance to advance to the national competition:

• Kinsey Cave, 7/8 Softball Division, Wallace, N.C.
• Braylen Harper, 7/8 Baseball Division, Athens, Ga.
• Mariah Harrison, 9/10 Softball Division, Ft. Mitchell, Ala.
• Beckett Coon, 9/10 Baseball Division, Holly Springs, N.C.
• Ashlyn Harrison, 11/12 Softball Division, Hanahan, S.C.
• Quincy White, 11/12 Baseball Division, Cleveland, Tenn.
• Olivia Shaw, 13/14 Softball Division, Hoschton, Ga.
• Matthew Mebane, 13/14 Baseball Division, Hilton Head, S.C.

Those eight finalists will have their scores compared with the winners from the other 29 Major League events. Of those 240 winners, the top three advance to the national competition in Washington during the All-Star Week. Those finalists will be announced sometime during the afternoon on July 2 on MLB Network.

Cody Pace is a contributor to based in Atlanta.

Atlanta Braves