The 9- and 10-year-old All-Stars from Columbia County should know a great deal about the proud baseball tradition in our community. Each of the team’s four coaches are from the area and grew up playing Columbia County Recreation Department baseball.
The young group played like many of the championship teams of years past, as they rolled out of Wrens, Ga., with a state crown this weekend. The team opened the state tournament with a bang, scoring six runs in the first inning en route to a 13-3 lopsided win over Winder.
Jonathan Davila, Chase Dollander, Cade Combs and Ryan Markwalter each had two hits to lead the offense, while Dollander, Leyland Dyches and James Heramb-Eckert handled the pitching in the opener. That first game was a preview of the offense the team would show throughout the week as they hit .376 as a team during the nine games.
The team won five of their first six games to earn a spot in the best of three championship series versus Monroe. They lost a heartbreaker in Game 1 of the series 10-8, despite four RBIs for Grant Fuller and a 2-for-3 effort at the plate from Alex Matthews.
Just as they had done throughout the tournament, however, the young men did not give up. They trounced Monroe 17-1 in Game 2 to even the series at a game apiece. Heramb-Eckert, Combs, Fuller, Matthews and Dollander each had two hits in the one-sided victory. Dollander also picked up the win on the mound.
That set up a decisive third game with a trip to the AAA World Series hanging in the balance. The battle-tested group from the county was ready for the challenge. Nolan Short came through with a key double and a masterful effort on the mound, while Markwalter and Trevor Creagan each drove in a pair of runs as Columbia County edged Monroe 9-8 to claim the title.
Grant Fuller was the hitting star for the week, boasting a .600 batting average. Fuller had plenty of help as Markwalter, Matthews, Davila and Dollander each hit over .400 for the tournament.
This was a team effort. Each player on the roster had a hand in this team’s success in the state tournament. That type of team effort should bode well for the squad as the begin play in the Dixie Youth World Series.
While the squad had a short ride to Wrens for the state tournament, they will be traveling 460 miles south for the World Series in Bartow, Fla. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for Aug. 3, and Columbia County’s first game will be at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 4 versus Tennessee.
Good luck to a terrific group of young men.