The CSRA Crusaders won second place in the East Regional Baseball Tournament in Danville, Va., April 21-23, qualifying the home schoolers to play in the World Series in Atlanta in May. Team members are: batboy Jacob Dickson (front row, from left), Justin Greer, Wilson Miles, Eli Holt, Caleb Holt, Christopher Greer, Jake Smith, Ty McTier and team manager Katelyn Smith; head coach Todd Dickson (back row, from left), Cory Dickson, assistant coach Coleman Miles, Curtis Dickson, Phillip Bragg, Ethan Robinson, James Davidson, Alex Dodgen, Cory Newman, assistant coach David McTier, assistant coach Wendell Greer and scorekeeper Ken Smith.
They didn't expect to win, but the CSRA Crusaders won second place in the East Regional Baseball Tournament held in Danville, Va., April 21-23, qualifying the home schoolers to play in the World Series in Atlanta in May. The win was a surprise for the parents of some of the players, but not for their coach.
"I told them at the beginning of the season meeting that we were going to the World Series, so put it in the budget," coach Todd Dickson said, "but they wanted to wait and see."
Because the Crusaders were 7-14 going into the tournament, the parents were skeptical of the team's chances.
"Overall, (in the tournament) they played very well, much better than normal, it was surprising," said Candy Newman, whose son, Cory, is an outfielder and pitcher on the team. "I mean, I had no plans to go to the World Series. I knew that we had come a long way, but I didn't realize how far we'd come."
The Crusaders' team is only 2 years old, and consists of four seniors, two juniors, three sophomores, four freshmen, and one eighth-grader.
In the tournament, the Crusaders defeated the Richmond Virginia Patriots 15-3 in five innings, the Northern Virginia Lions 11-6, lost to the Raleigh Warriors 6-7, and then beat the Atlanta Crusaders 5-4 to become the second-place qualifiers for the World Series.
"With each win, we saw them get excited about each other as a team," said Teri Holt, who has two sons on the team.
"After the first win, it was most rewarding to watch the relationships establish. That's what winning does. It was fun to sit back and watch them really actually enjoy playing baseball. (My son) Caleb came off the field saying 'I love to pitch.'"
The Crusaders' Most Valuable Players for the tournament were pitcher Ty McTier, senior; pitcher/ first baseman Christopher Greer, sophomore; and catcher Justin Greer, freshman.
"It's the funnest time I've ever had," Christopher said.
Catcher Justin Greer said playing in Danville was more of a challenge because the game was played at the Dan Daniel Stadium, home of the Danville Braves, a pro minor league team. Justin said the backstop had a distance of "about 70 feet," and if he missed the ball, every runner could score. Justin didn't let the ball get by him.
"It was the best I've ever caught in my life," Justin said.
Leading hitters for the tournament were Christopher Greer with five singles, two doubles, and eight RBIs; Ty McTier with four singles, one triple, and one RBI; freshman James Davidson with five singles and four RBIs, and junior Phillip Bragg with four singles and one RBI.
Coach Dickson said that because the team is so young and are home-schooled, they've had more obstacles to overcome than regular high school teams. Dickson said they do not have a regular field to practice on, the players come from all across the area, and they each have different schedules.
"We don't ever have practices where the entire team is there at the same time," Dickson said. "But I knew we were going to make it to the World Series this year, I just knew it."
The Crusaders belong to the home-school conference, playing against nine home-school teams from Augusta, Atlanta, and from Nashville, Tenn. They also play nonconference games against local private schools.
The Crusaders will go to the Homeschool World Series in Atlanta on May 22-26, where they will play against teams from Atlanta; Nashville, Tenn.; Raleigh, N.C.; Huntsville, Ala.; and Dallas, and Fort Worth, Texas.
For more information, visit www.csracrusaders.com.
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