Clayton Peoples says he and his Columbia County 11-12 All-Star teammates learned to rely on each other and play as one en route to their Dixie Youth Boys O-Zone World Series Championship Thursday night.
"We learned a lot about each other and we learned to stick together and not fight all the time. That would get us nowhere," he said. "(We knew) if we'd stick together we could win anything."
Through the six-game tournament in Dothan, Ala., Columbia County's 11-12 All-Stars relied on the power of their bats to bring home a championship.
The all-star team hit 16 home runs in the series to top the field of 12 elite teams from across the Southeast.
On Thursday night, Columbia County beat an all-star team from Dentsville, S.C., 8-5 in six innings, to claim the championship. The team hit two homers and played flawless defense in the finale, head coach Jaime Dukes said Friday after his team returned to Patriots Park.
"Our pitching was tremendous, but our bats are what did the talking up there," Dukes said. Eight players hit homers in the World Series.
Included among those players was Garrett Haskins, 12, who hit a grand slam for his first career home run, in a 14-3 Game 3 win over the Louisiana all-star team. Haskins, who was visibly tired after a long bus ride home, said his homer felt good.
His was the first of five hit back-to-back in the game.
"It was 13 ballplayers. One would get a hit and that would spark it," assistant coach Chris Price said.
The Columbia County All-Stars were awarded a bye for Thursday morning after three teams made it through the bracket of 12 teams with one loss.
On Wednesday night, Dentsville handed the Columbia County squad its only loss of the series. But the South Carolina squad had to play a three-hour marathon Thursday morning game with the Louisiana all-stars before the evening finale.
"I think they shook our confidence (in the first match-up), but the boys responded well and stepped it up a notch," Dukes said, adding with Thursday morning off, his team was rested and ready to play.
Peoples, a pitcher and an eighth-grader at Greenbrier Middle School, walked two in a complete game in the finale against Dentsville. Dukes credited the youngster's ability to throw a fastball, curve, change-up or splitter at any time as the difference maker.
Dukes said the championship wouldn't have been possible without the help of his assistant coaches Price, Adam Jones and Columbia County Recreation Department coordinator Kelvin Lampkin.
As the 2006 Dixie Youth Boys O-Zone World Series champions and Georgia champions, the boys names will be engraved on a rock wall at Patriots Park and will be awarded rings in January, Dukes said.
Randy Haygood, athletic supervisor with the Columbia County Recreation Department, said this is the 12th World Series championship baseball team among all age groups in the department's history.
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