For a group of Columbia County baseball players, the school year didn’t start last week.
Instead, the Columbia County baseball 9-10 All-Stars were in Bartow, Fla., at the 2012 Dixie Youth AAA World Series.
“We’ve been using that as a motivating factor,” said head coach Jason Combs of missing school. “If you win, you don’t go back,” he said laughing.
The series began Aug. 4 and the team made its way through the competition until losing Wednesday night, 3-2, to Midland, S.C. The All-Stars led 2-1 entering the fifth inning when Midland tied it up. The game went to extra innings and Midland won with a seventh-inning run.
The loss knocked them out just short of the finals.
Columbia County’s team dispatched Tennessee the first day, but North Carolina knocked them into the losers’ bracket the second day. They beat Mississippi on Monday and the week got even more exciting on Tuesday.
The All-Stars gave up three runs in the first inning to Alabama. It stayed that way until the bottom of the fifth.
Grant Fuller walked to start the inning. One out later, Jonathan Davila reached third on an error and a James Eckert single, sending Fuller home. One batter later Trevor Creagan walked to load the bases and Ryan Markwalter drilled a bases-clearing double to take the lead.
“It felt good hitting the ball,” said Markwalter.
Combs was determined the winning run would score.
“I knew Ryan was going to hit the ball,” Combs said. “Jonathan Davila was on third and I told him he was coming home no matter what. James Eckert was on second and he’s really fast and he was coming home no matter what. Trevor Creagan isn’t the fastest player, but he was coming home no matter what.”
Creagan pitched the final five innings and got the win.
Combs said the ultimate goal was to win, but the kids having a memorable experience was also important. Different players took away different things.
For Alex Matthews (Stallings Island Middle School) and James Eckert (Columbia Middle School) missing school was the best part. Cade Combs liked the baseball, and Nolan was enamored of the winning.
Fuller shared his coach’s opinion. The best part for him?
“Probably the baseball and hanging out,” he said.