Columbia County's young baseball players flexed their muscles last week and earned state recognition in several age groups.
The Columbia County Recreation Department played host to the Dixie Boys State Tournament, the Junior Dixie Boys State Tournament and the Dixie Youth "O" Zone State Tournament. In June, the county also played host to the GRPA Class A Mite Live Pitch State Tournament.
All-Star teams from Columbia County won every single state tournament.
"I think it's great. This is a baseball county, and this shows it," said John Sandlin, coach of the Columbia County Dixie Boys All-Stars.
Sandlin's team took the state championship Tuesday with a 13-2 win over Troup County in the finals. The home team never lost a game in the four-day tournament after scoring 49 runs and giving up only 15.
In the championship game the team of 13- and 14-year olds was led by Brian Smith, who went 3-for-5 on the day including a two-run home run in the seventh inning. Starting pitcher Glenn Cassedy threw five innings and gave up only three hits while striking out six batters. Reliever Kody Belcher went in to throw the final two innings.
"Last weekend, these kids went off and won a state championship at a USSSA tournament in South Carolina. Eight of these kids have won five state titles together since they were 10," Sandlin said last week. "They have that experience under their belts."
The same was true for Columbia County's Junior Dixie Boys All-Star Team. Led by head coach Jamie Dukes, the Junior Dixie Boys won the state championship the hard way. They fell into the loser's bracket and worked their way up to a 9-8 win over Newton County in the championship game Monday.
"We played about seven hours of baseball that day, and six of them were really good," Dukes said. "We've got to get some of our pitching worked out, but our defense was flawless."
Jared Gibson led the defensive charge with strong glove work in the championship game while Clayton Peoples spent most of the tournament pitching and hitting his team into the finals. Peoples hit a home run at the plate and threw a three-hitter from the mound Monday to reach the championship game.
"I've got a whole different team when he's on the mound," Dukes said. "The whole team has so much more confidence. They think their invincible."
Both teams will advance to the Dixie Boys and Junior Dixie Boys World Series in August. Dukes' team will travel to Muscle Shoals, Ala., for the Junior Dixie Boys World Series on Aug. 4-9.
Sandlin's team won't have to travel as far. The Dixie Boys World Series will be held at Citizens Park in Aiken on Aug. 4-9.
The Dixie Youth "O" Zone State Tournament finals wrapped up Thursday with two Columbia County All-Star teams vying for the title.
The Dixie Youth "O" Zone World Series will take place in Troy, Ala., from Saturday to Aug. 2.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.