South Carolina alumni look for four in a row over Blowfish

South Carolina alumni look for four in a row over Blowfish

**Story by Kyle Heck/photo from last year's game by Allen Sharpe and Jenny Dilworth**

Every year, former South Carolina baseball players join together to play a game against the Coastal Plain League's Lexington County Blowfish. It's a charity game to claim the GameFish Cup, but the South Carolina alumni have a streak they want to keep going in the 11th edition of the game on Saturday.

The alumni have won three straight over the Blowfish, and the all-time series is tied 5-5 heading into the 11th meeting. 

"Every year it's exciting for us because we love competing," said former Gamecock great Trey Dyson. "That being said, it's getting harder and harder every year because we're getting older and the Blowfish kids keep staying the same age."

This year's alumni roster will once again be packed with familiar names including Matt Price, Nolan Belcher, Robert Beary, Adam Westmoreland, Garris Gonce, Phil Disher and Tripp Kelly. There could be some late additions to the roster, including a possible appearance by Adam Matthews. 

The alumni will be facing a Lexington County team that features three current Gamecocks. T.J. Shook will start on the mound for the Blowfish and Riley Hogan will play first base. Pitcher Cody Morris is also on the team, but he's on the shelf for the time being. 

The current players will face a group of former stars who will be determined to win.

"When we put that Gamecock uniform on it means something to us," Dyson said. "It's tough, hard-nosed, blue collar work. That's how we built this under coach Tanner."

Each year, Dyson and the alumni select an organization or family to benefit during the GameFish Cup. This year, the beneficiary will be Hands of Hope SC, an organization that offers pediatric comfort and care to children faced with life-limiting illnesses. Dyson is honoring a family in his Sunday school class that had a 15-month-old child who passed away suddenly in his sleep. 

It's all for a great cause, and Dyson is thankful for Lexington County Blowfish owner Bill Shanahan for helping to organize the event. 

"Very thankful to Bill," Dyson said. "Bill is a very intense person and he's reached out and given us this opportunity. It's also beneficial to him as well. Very thankful to him and just the friendship that we've made over the past 10 years. It's been really great."

The entire weekend of the annual game is a fun-filled affair for the alumni. For many, it's a chance to come back to Columbia and relive old memories of playing in the Garnet and Black.

"We formed such a special bond at South Carolina playing that when we get together, it's almost like yesterday and we're rehashing all the memories from years past," Dyson said. "The bond is just phenomenal and I think that's one of the things that really sets South Carolina baseball apart from a lot of other programs."

The game itself is also a must-watch affair that isn't just about baseball. There are all kinds of things going on in between innings, including different pranks by the players. In fact, one year the teams brought down a fan from the stands to take an at-bat (he worked a walk and got on base). There will also be a fireworks show after the game, which Dyson expects to last seven innings.

Dyson said his early vote for team MVP would be Matt Price, who has closed out wins the past two seasons. He's also helped on offense. Phil Disher hit a three-run homer last year that started a game-winning rally, and Hunter Privette on the mound has shined in the alumni games. 

The quest for four in a row over the Blowfish begins on Saturday with first pitch scheduled for around 7:05 p.m.

"We basically roll out of bed in the morning and play a baseball game," Dyson said. "It's not the easiest thing in the world to do, so the fact that we've been competitive at all has been just a testament to the competitive nature of the guys."