History of the IP Baseball Classic Tournament
The International Paper Baseball Classic was the brainchild of Georgetown High Baseball Coach, Mike Johnson, who wanted an opportunity to bring the top AAAA baseball teams of South Carolina for a pre-season tournament. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Georgetown and Stratford developed a friendly rivalry after meeting in several key region and post season contests. Stratford was coached by Freddie Jordan who is now the head baseball coach at the Citadel. The idea for this tournament became reality when Coach Johnson mentioned to Coach Jordan about a pre-season tournament to pit some of the top teams in South Carolina against one another, and Coach Jordan was very interested in the idea. Sponsorship was solicited from International Paper Company, one of Georgetown County’s major employers. International Paper Company graciously agreed to be the primary sponsor, and the first tournament was held in 1991 with Dr. Jim Owens serving as the Tournament Director. The first International Paper Baseball Classic started with only four teams, Georgetown, Irmo, Lancaster, and Stratford. The four teams played a round robin format with a total of six games with two being played on Friday night and four being played on Saturday. Lancaster featured the hard-throwing pro prospect, Pep Harris, who was later drafted in the sixth round by the Cleveland Indians. His tournament record of eighteen strikeouts in a single game has yet to be broken.
In 1992, the tournament grew to include six teams which began play on Thursday evening and continued through Sunday afternoon. In 1993, the field was expanded to include eight teams, and the cross bracket format began. By 1994, the tournament had gained a national reputation and was expanded to include two out-of-state teams. Because Georgetown dropped down to the AAA classification after the 1997 realignment by the South Carolina High School League, teams from the AAA and AA divisions began being included in the field of participants.
The year 1998 was a pivotal point in the International Paper Baseball Classic as a Board of Directors was appointed, and Dr. Jim Owens resigned as Tournament Director after the 1998 Tournament. Mr. Bob Perry was named chairman of the Board of Directors and also served as director of the 1999 Classic. Because of so many great baseball programs in the state of South Carolina, the Board of Directors chose to go back to the basic premise upon which the tournament was founded, to showcase South Carolina’s finest in high school baseball, and returned to inviting South Carolina teams only. In 2000, Ms. Alicia Johnson became Tournament Director and is still serving in that capacity. After the 2003 tournament, when the I.P. Classic championship game pitted the AAA Riverside Warriors against the AAAA Summerville Green Wave, both of whom went on to win state championships in their respective classifications, the Board of Directors decided to experiment with four team AAA bracket and a four team AAAA bracket for the 2004 tournament. That remained the format through 2016 when the SCHSL realigned into five classifications. In 2014, the I.P. Classic was named one of the top ten high school baseball tournaments in the nation by MaxPreps.