Stars and Stripes in ‘Betsy… National Baseball Team makes stop in town as part of tour

Published 11:47 pm Monday, July 12, 2021

BY ANDREW SMITH
STAR CORRESPONDENT
Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark played host to special company Friday night, as the Collegiate National Baseball Team made a stop in Elizabethton as a part of their tour of the Appalachian League.

The team was divided up into two squads, the Stars and the Stripes, in order to hold these exhibition matchups this summer. The games are seven innings long, and involve unique substitution rules that would not be legal in a traditional game, but are allowed in these showcase games.

One of the more recognizable names locally on the Collegiate National Team is Tennessee Volunteers’ outfielder Drew Gilbert. Gilbert, who plays on the Stripes, was the Vols’ cleanup hitter for most of the season, as the team made its first trip back to the College World Series since 2005 this spring.

“It was pretty cool,” Gilbert said when asked about the run. “Obviously it had been a long time since we’d been there, 16 years or whatever it was. [There were] a lot of people that put a lot of work in even before me to help get us to that point, so it was pretty cool.”

Even though the season with the Vols ended up short of its ultimate goal of a title, Gilbert is still grateful to put on the Team USA uniform this summer.

“I think it’s every collegiate player’s goal to put [the Team USA uniform] on,” Gilbert said. “It’s pretty special and it’s an honor.”

While being a part of the Collegiate National Team, Gilbert said that he has been able to learn a lot from his coaches and peers.

“For me, [this summer] has been about trying to learn as much as I can,” Gilbert said. “All of these guys here and coaches have been around the game a lot longer than me, and are a lot smarter than I’ll ever be. For me, it’s just trying to learn and get better every day.”

Gilbert is not the only player from Tony Vitello’s Vols that are on the Collegiate National Team. Pitcher Blade Tidwell is also on Team USA, as a member of the Stars.

When asked if there had been any trash talking between the two, Gilbert said with a smile, “No, not really, to be honest with you.”

As for the exhibition itself, the Stripes, the designated road team, got on the board first with an RBI double by Ethan Long (Arizona State) to score Gilbert to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.

That score would hold as a pitchers’ duel began between the Stripes’ Gabriel Hughes (Gonzaga) and the Stars’ Samuel Highfill (NC State).

In the top of the fifth, the Stripes were able to extend their lead to 2-0 thanks to an RBI walk with the bases loaded from Long to score Carter Trice (Old Dominion).

The Stars were able to get on the board in their half of the fifth, and they did so in a big way. They scored eight as they sent eleven hitters to the plate.

The inning ended due to a rule in place where the team pitching can claim a third out in exchange for any runners in scoring position automatically scoring.

The Stripes got one back one in the sixth on an RBI groundout by Dylan Beavers (California) to make the game 8-3. After the groundout, the Stars turned to Landon Sims (Mississippi State) to close the door, and that he did. He retired all four hitters he faced three via a swinging strikeout.

The Collegiate National Team played again Saturday, as they continue their Appy League tour at Hunter Wright Stadium in Kingsport.

Stripes 3 7 1

Stars 8 10 1