This time when the clock struck midnight, Josh Grant was on top of the world.
As a member of the Columbia County Recreation Department Dixie Youth all-star baseball team last year, Grant's dream of winning a World Series ended with a one-run loss in Virginia at the title game of Dixie's 11-12 age division.
Last week in Euless, Texas, Grant lived out another Cinderella story, with a much happier ending.
After Columbia County topped Louisiana 8-7 to capture the Dixie Boys World Series crown late Thursday night, Grant and his teammates were presented watches to commemorate the achievement.
When he glanced at the sparkling timepiece, Grant noticed it was midnight. He had just turned 14, and the best present was being called champion of Dixie Baseball's 13-14 age division.
"It's a whole lot more fun than losing," Grant said Saturday after the Columbia County squad arrived at Patriots Park. "You have a good time on the way back home. We were all happy and excited we won."
Grant, Paul Bordon, Matt Easley, Cory Hillman and Shawn Ward each earned their first World Series ring, while seven other Columbia County players will soon have two to choose from.
Rich Poythress, Hank McCladdie, Chris Johnson, Felix Chinea, Erik Smith, Josh Brodhecker and Chris Banker also played for the Dixie Youth World Series winners in 2000.
"I think this was harder than the first one," Poythress said. "Louisiana kept battling back."
Sydney Hillman (from left), Emily Bordon, Jennifer Grant and Melody Scharff welcome home Columbia County's victorious baseball team at a celebration last weekend.
Photo by Mike Howell
Angel Torres managed both title teams, so he was the perfect person to put things in perspective.
"It can't be any sweeter than the first time, but this one is more rewarding," he said Saturday. "Louisiana gave us all they had. We were just lucky and fortunate enough to beat them twice."
Columbia County swept the Dixie Boys state tournament, and represented Georgia at the 12-team, double-elimination event in Texas. Team Georgia entered as the favorite, which is a dangerous role at any World Series.
After opening play with a 7-0 win over the host squad from Euless, Georgia lost to North Carolina 9-5. Georgia handled Florida 8-1, then staved off elimination with a 2-1 squeaker over Tennessee.
Pitchers McCladdie and Banker combined to toss a 3-0 shutout against Louisiana, which set the stage for a winner-take-all rematch Thursday night.
Georgia scored three runs in the top of the sixth to take a 5-3 lead, but Louisiana rallied to tie the game and send it into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Bordon led off with a hit, and Ward followed with a two-run homer. Poythress added a solo shot to give Georgia an 8-5 lead, and that insurance run was the difference in the 8-7 thriller.
For the Series, Ward went 12 for 25 at the plate, McCladdie and Johnson each recorded eight hits; Bordon, Poythress and Baker had seven apiece, while Smith added six.
On the mound, Brodhecker posted two wins and a clutch save in the clincher; Chinea kept Georgia alive with a complete-game against Tennessee, then earned the victory in the championship game.
As for the youngest Dixie Boys all-star - what a difference a year makes.
"I thought we did real good," Josh Grant said after a heroes' reception Saturday at Patriots Park. "We had our ups and downs, but everyone contributed."
Road to the championship
Columbia County Dixie Boys results from the Parks at Texas Star
Columbia County 7, Euless 0. Winning pitcher: Josh Brodhecker.
North Carolina 9, Georgia 5. Leading hitters: Shawn Ward (3-4); Paul Bordon (3-4); Cory Hillman (2-4). Doubles: Bordon, Chris Johnson.
Georgia 8, Florida 1. Winning pitcher: Josh Brodhecker. Leading hitters: Shawn Ward (2-5); Rich Poythress (3-5); Chris Banker (3-4); Erik Smith (2-4). Doubles: Banker, Smith.
Georgia 2, Tennessee 1. Winning pitcher: Felix Chinea. Leading hitters: Shawn Ward (2-3); Chris Johnson (2-3). Home runs: Hank McCladdie. Doubles: Ward, Chinea.
Georgia 3, Louisiana 0. Winning pitcher: Hank McCladdie. Save: Chris Banker. Leading hitters: McCladdie (2-3); Banker (2-3). Doubles: Banker.
Championship Game - Georgia 8, Louisiana 7 (eight innings). Winning pitcher: Felix Chinea. Save: Josh Brodhecker. Leading hitters: Paul Bordon (3-5); Hank McCladdie (3-5); Chris Johnson (3-5); Rich Poythress (2-3). Home runs: Shawn Ward, Poythress. Doubles: Matt Easley, McCladdie, Johnson (2).
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