The Columbia County Recreation Department Dixie Boys All-star team traveled to Jackson, Tenn., and when the squad came home last week, head coach Angel Torres whispered words of wisdom.
The fab four were phenomenal, outstanding, spectacular and clutch.
One other adjective describes Columbia County's performance at the Dixie Boys World Series: historic.
By winning six straight games to seize the World Series title, the all-stars defended Columbia County's Dixie Boys crown and gave the county its fourth championship in Dixie's 13-14 age division, which sets a new record for the 11 states in the Dixie League.
"It was a great team effort," Torres said of his team's run through the 12-team, double-elimination tournament.
The Recreation Department Dixie Boys All-Star Team hoists the trophy marking Columbia Countys fourth championship in the 13- and 14-year-old division after a 3-2 win over South Carolina.
Columbia County swept the district and state tournaments in July and represented Georgia in the Dixie Boys World Series, which began Aug. 2 and ended last Thursday.
Pitching set the tone as Georgia opened with a 3-0 win over Florida. Nolan Belcher, Kevin Millward and Brandon Cumpton combined to toss the shutout, but the kings of the hill were even better in game two.
Josh Grant, Cumpton and Belcher allowed only three hits while pitching Georgia to a 1-0 shutout of Mississippi. In left field, Cumpton made an over-the-shoulder catch and right fielder Nick Duffey notched several sparkling plays; on offense, J.C. Huffman (who led Georgia at the plate with a .667 average during the World Series) doubled and eventually scored the winning run on a single from Josh Whitaker.
Huffman followed with a pair of hits to pace a 10-4 romp over Alabama, and Georgia then edged South Carolina 3-2 in a winner's bracket matchup. Georgia had one shaky inning of defense, but still slipped past Louisiana 10-9 to advance to the championship game Thursday.
South Carolina advanced to the finals, but needed to beat Georgia twice to win the World Series.
Michael Hester had other ideas - and he didn't mind telling his teammates.
During a rain delay Thursday, Hester said he was going to hit a home run to help Georgia win the World Series. He had not homered in his 12 previous all-star games this summer, but that was about to change.
With Georgia trailing South Carolina 2-0 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Hester launched a two-run homer to send the contest into extra innings.
"I was just trying to get on base, but I knew we needed a home run," Hester said of the key blast. "It was awesome."
Georgia took a 3-2 lead in its next at-bat. Damien Lucree drew a lead-off walk, and pinch runner Tristan Scott stole second and third. Belcher then grounded to second to bring Scott home.
Columbia County Dixie Boys coach Angel Torres reacts to being doused by a bench cooler after his teams victory in the Dixie Boys World Series in Jackson, Tenn.
Belcher clinched the championship by working a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the eighth. He finished the game with five strikeouts, while Cumpton fanned seven batters in four innings of work.
"Pitching really won it for us," Belcher said. "Winning the World Series was the best feeling I've ever had."
Columbia County now has captured 11 Dixie league baseball crowns, and Torres has been a part of three titles. He coached the 2000 Dixie Youth winners and led the Dixie Boys to the top last summer.
Torres, along with assistant coaches Brian Belcher and Dan Hester, prepared their team for the World Series pressure, and they kept the players focused on the task at hand, which isn't easy for teen-agers on a road trip.
"We always came up with a plan B, C and D to overcome what was going on," Torres said.
Everything worked to perfection until Friday morning. The team bus broke down outside Nashville, and the local heroes didn't arrive at Patriots Park until late Friday night.
But the journey may be just beginning.
"We're all kind of splitting up in high school, but we'll all continue to be very good baseball players," Huffman said. "Winning the World Series gives us a whole lot of confidence for the future."
Columbia County roster: Nolan Belcher, Tyler Bourdo, Robbie Bryant, Brandon Cumpton, Nick Duffey, Josh Grant, Michael Hester, John-Clark Huffman, Kyle Knight, Damien Lucree, Kevin Millward, Tristan Scott and Josh Whitaker. Head coach: Angel Torres. Assistant coaches: Brian Belcher and Dan Hester.
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