Charlie Beale watched with amusement as Columbia County's Dixie O-Zone team piled onto a chartered bus Friday morning.
The players exhibited much more energy than the parents and other well-wishers who were gathered in the parking lot for the team's 7 a.m. departure for Pascagoula, Miss.
"They'll be awake until about Atlanta, and then they'll be out," predicted Beale, the county's recreation manager.
The O-Zone squad, the winner of the Georgia state tournament held in Columbia County, was the first of four county teams that departed to compete in different divisions of the World Series.
The O-Zone World Series started this past Saturday and wraps up Thursday. The county's Dixie Boys team also will play in the World Series, which begins Saturday in Covington, Ga. And two Columbia County girls teams, the Ponytails and the Belles, leave Thursday for each division's World Series in Louisiana.
The Belles will head to Alexandria, La. Two years ago, a team made up of many of the same girls competed in the Ponytails World Series. Last year, the squad fell in the state tournament. Belles coach Mary Sarver thinks her team now has the necessary experience to make a run at the title.
"They know what they're getting into," Sarver said. "I think they're prepared."
Sarver lauded her team's defensive play during the state tournament but sounded a little worried about the bats. The team rolled through much of the tournament but squeaked out a 1-0 win in the final.
As a result, the Belles have spent a lot of time in the batting cage during practice.
"We've got a real good defense, and we've got good pitching," Sarver said. "We've just got to do a better job hitting every game."
The Ponytails will head south without the experience of the older Belles. But coach Gregg Stokes' team is riding momentum from a state tournament during which the Ponytails outscored their opponents 45-1, with the lone run allowed in the final inning of the championship game.
"The girls have been really upbeat," Stokes said. "They're really excited, because this is a fun time in their lives."
The jumpy O-Zone team members could attest to the feeling. As they scrambled up the steps to the bus, parents sipped coffee and caught some of the craziness on film.
"We're going to win it all," 11-year-old Nick Sandlin said before boarding. "Go for gold."
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