A group of youngsters that have tried for several years to earn a Dixie Baseball World Series berth have finally reaped that award.
The Halifax County Dixie Boys 13-14-year-old all-stars edged Buckingham 3-1 Monday to win the Virginia Dixie Boys State Tournament at Charlotte Courthouse and earn a berth in the Dixie Boys World Series to be played Aug. 3-7 in Aiken, South Carolina.
Monday marked the first time since this group of Halifax County players had started playing together in the Machine Pitch ranks had earned a World Series berth. The group had won a state title in Machine Pitch, but that was as far as that age group could advance at that time.
“I’m so proud of this group,” said Halifax County coach Matt Gunn.
“They deserve to finally be able to bring a state championship home and get to the World Series.”
Not only did the Halifax County team win the state championship and earn a World Series berth, it also brought home the Sportsmanship Award from the state tournament.
Playing a difficult state tournament with a single-elimination format, Halifax County ran the tables and went undefeated through its five-game stretch, edging Buckingham in a thriller of a championship game that was scoreless through the first five innings.
Halifax County took the lead with a run in the top of the sixth inning that opened with a double by Joshua Gunn. Buckingham intentionally walked Trevor Hazelwood, and Hunter Howerton was inserted into the game to run for Hazelwood. A single by Dakii Chandler plated Howerton to give Halifax County a 1-0 lead.
Two more runs in the top of the seventh inning gave Halifax County a 3-0 lead. Halifax County loaded the bases when Jayke Owen, Tyler Collins and Gunn all reached base via a walk. A single from Cameron Carson plated Owen to give Halifax County a 2-0 lead. A sacrifice fly to left field from Hazelwood scored Collins, giving Halifax County a three-run cushion.
Buckingham scratched up a run in the bottom of the seventh inning, but it was too little too late as Halifax County held on to win the game and the state championship.
Halifax County had six hits in the game, with Gunn and Chandler leading the team with two hits each. Carson and Ryan Duffer had a hit each.
Hazelwood started the game on the mound for Halifax County. He fanned 11 batters and allowed two walks and two hits during his 5.2-inning stint. Gunn picked up the save, allowing no hits, striking out one batter and allowing one walk.
“This was a total team effort in winning the state championship,” Gunn said.
“We have 11 of our 13 players that can pitch. There is potential we can get a hit from anybody one through 13. I’m glad to see things go our way for these kids.”
Halifax County reached the state championship game by crushing Madison Heights 14-2 in one of Sunday’s semi-final games.
A combination of nine hits and nine walks from Madison Heights pitchers helped fuel the big win. Collins and Carson led Halifax County’s offense with two hits each. Gunn, Chandler, Trey Comer, Duffer and Owen all had a hit each.
Halifax County put the game out of reach quickly by scoring nine runs in the first inning. Madison Heights answered with two runs in the second inning, but Halifax County added four more runs to its total in the bottom of the inning to take a 13-2 lead. One more run in the fourth inning gave Halifax County the 14-2 victory.