Columbia County's teams at the various levels of the Dixie World Series fell short of a title this month, but county recreation officials picked up a win for the area with a successful hosting bid for 2010.
The Dixie Belles and Dixie Ponytails will play their World Series at Patriots Park in 2010. Columbia County recreation manager Charlie Beale had placed the bid before this year's games, and traveled to Louisiana to make a formal proposal.
The bid was accepted and the county wasted little time in making preparations. Beale will hold an informal staff meeting Thursday to discuss a preliminary budget, among other things. He estimated the World Series would have a $1 million affect on the area.
"Hopefully, we'll get into full steam as far as setting committees up and getting everything ready to go and start," Beale said. "It will take us that length of period to get everything set."
Beale watched how the Louisiana hosts, who held both the Dixie girls World Series, conducted their opening ceremonies with the hopes of one-upping them in the future.
He saw food and some fireworks, but plenty of room to do more.
While it's still early, Beale said he planned to have a speaker -- the county has brought in the likes of Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench in the past -- and hold a ceremony honoring each player and team. And Columbia County squads will have home field advantage, something that might have helped this year.
The Columbia County Ponytails, 11- 12-year-old girls, dropped their first two games of the double-elimination format -- 3-2 to host Pineville, La., and 4-0 to South Carolina. But coach Greg Stokes said his team enjoyed the experience.
"The girls had a great time," he said. "A lot of them had never been out of town to play in a tournament. It was basically the experience of a lifetime for them."
The Ponytails had the tying run on third base when the first game ended, and the players were disappointed, but upbeat, Stokes said.
After the second game, the girls ate out at a nice restaurant and soaked in their remaining time.
"Some of them took it kind of hard," Stokes said. "Some of them were, 'OK, we're cool. We still got here, we were still the state champions.' "
The state champion Columbia County Belles started hot and climbed within a day of playing for the championship before Alabama eliminated them.
After Columbia County won its first two games by a combined 23 runs, coach Mary Sarver said they had earned the respect of everyone there.
"They did Georgia well," Sarver said. "As we were walking around, everybody was like, 'That was the team to beat.' "
The heat was a factor all week. Two teams were forced to forfeit games because of heat exhaustion. A Tennessee player fainted on third base during the team's game with Georgia.
As the heat rose, Columbia County's bats went cold. Sarver's team scored a combined three runs in its two losses.
"We fully expected to go compete and be in the championship game," Sarver said. "We competed well. We just came up a little short."
Columbia County's O-Zone squad lost 9-0 to Texas and 6-5 to Mississippi.
Columbia County's Dixie Boys team, playing in Covington, probably had the best run of the area's teams. It advanced to within a game of playing for the championship, but, for a second consecutive year, were eliminated by a team from Sumter, S.C.
Columbia County was down big going to bat in the top of the seventh, but rallied to pull within a run. The game ended on a line-drive out with runners in scoring position, a 12-11 Sumter win.
"We're Columbia County," said county athletic coordinator Jim Mock, who accompanied the team. "We don't go down there just to play, we go to win. ... But everything was top notch. We had a good time."
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