Now that the Columbia County Recreation Department American All-Star team has swept five games to win the Dixie Boys state tournament at Riverside Park, let's throw some cliches around the horn.
The third time's the charm: after rolling through the tourney last week, Columbia County claimed its third straight Dixie Boys state title.
It's like deja vu all over again: American All-Star head coach Angel Torres is going back to the World Series.
Last year, Torres' team won the Dixie Boys (ages 13-14) World Series in Euless, Texas, and with the latest state championship secured, Columbia County American will represent Georgia in the 2003 World Series in Jackson, Tenn.
Torres also coached Columbia County's Dixie Youth team to a World Series title in 2000. Torres expected both of his previous state-title squads to claim Dixie crowns, and he also senses something special will happen at this year's World Series, which runs Aug. 2-7.
"I've got that feeling," Torres said. "This team has a great shot at it. Every player knows their role, and they're ready to step up and contribute."
Micheal Hester combined with Brandon Cumpton and Noland Belcher to beat Lee County in the finals of the Dixie Boys State Tournament at Riverside Park
Photo by Jim Blaylock
And, one final famous phrase puts another spin on the upcoming World Series: those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.
With the exception of Tyler Bourdo, Brandon Cumpton, Kyle Knight and Damien Lucree, the other nine American all-stars competed in the Dixie Youth World Series two years ago in Virginia. Columbia County was one out away from a championship but was stuck with a devastating loss.
"We'll focus on what it takes to win this time," American all-star Noland Belcher said. "We don't want to lose again, because we remember what it felt like."
Columbia County National suffered that fate last week. The Nationals were knocked out of the double-elimination tournament with two quick losses. The Dixie Boys state host team fell to the Manchester All-stars 11-8, and the Nationals lost to North Macon 7-5 in second-round action on Sunday.
The American All-stars, meanwhile, opened with a 12-3 win over Brookwood, then followed with wins over Lee County (9-5), Manchester (16-3) and Valdosta (3-2) to advance to Wednesday's final against Lee County.
Columbia County took the state title with a 10-4 win. Pitchers Michael Hester and Brandon Cumpton combined to work through five innings, and Belcher went the rest of the way on the mound. With his team holding a tenuous 5-3 lead, the southpaw fanned three straight Lee County batters to thwart a bases-loaded threat in the bottom of the fifth.
Offensively, Josh Whitaker, John-Clark Huffman, Josh Grant, Kevin Millward, Cumpton and Belcher all recorded multi-hit games during the tournament.
"We did some things better than we expected to," Millward said. "One of our weak points was hitting, and we improved on that this week, and our pitching is outstanding. Other than some mental mistakes, we did everything we needed to do."
As the Columbia County American All-stars hoisted their state trophy, a Lee County coach called, "Y'all bring that World Series trophy back to Georgia."
That sounded like a great idea to the current all-stars, who let a trophy get away two seasons ago in Virginia. Though Grant helped erase the memory of the Dixie Youth defeat with a title at the Dixie Boys World Series last year, Tristan Scott, Robbie Bryant, Nick Duffey, Hester, Huffman, Belcher, Whitaker and Millward have some unfinished business to take care of in Tennessee.
"When I was 11, we went to the World Series and lost, but we believe we have a better team this year," Millward said. "Talent-wise, everyone on this team can play."
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