It is a solid-hitting Halifax County Dixie Boys 13-14 all-star baseball team that is heading into this weekend’s Dixie Boys World Series in Aiken, South Carolina.
Halifax County went undefeated in winning the Virginia state tournament, posting a total of 55 runs while allowing only 11 runs. The team also came away with the state tournament Sportsmanship Award.
Halifax County manager Matt Gunn says he feels this is one of the best Dixie Boys all-star teams to come along in a number of years.
“As far as the atmosphere around these kids, I feel that this is the best team,” Gunn remarked.
“The talent is there, and the strength and chemistry of the team is there. This group is 99.9% baseball all year long, and you can see it.”
Gunn said Halifax County will face a lot of tough competition in the World Series, starting with Saturday’s 10 a.m. opener against Louisiana.
“The Louisiana team we play Saturday, the league that team represents won the World Series in 2017,” Gunn noted, “and the host team, Aiken, won the World Series last year as 13-year-olds. Aiken is the host, and they have something in their pocket as well. Win or lose, we will end up playing Mississippi or Georgia. We are on the strong side of the bracket.
“It’s going to be tough right out of the gate,” he added, “but I feel we can go down there and make some noise.”
Gunn says his team’s defense is the strong point heading into the World Series.
“We play sound defense,” he pointed out.
“We sometimes will look a little sloppy in practice, but when it comes time for a game, it’s on. They are really, really sharp with their defense. We may have made one or two errors in the state tournament, and that was simple mental errors starting from the ground up with the glove. Outside of that, they were pretty sharp.”
Halifax County is also in good shape when it comes to pitching. Eleven of the 13 players on the team can pitch.
“That’s huge,” said Gunn.
“It usually takes five or six pitchers to win the state tournament. Going to a World Series it doesn’t hurt to have a few junk-ballers in your pocket. Having 11 pitchers gives you a few extras.”
Trevor Hazelwood and Joshua Gunn are among the Halifax County pitchers. They combined for a dozen strikeouts in the state championship game and allowed only two walks.
In the state tournament, Cameron Carson went 2-0 on the mound, with Collins, Dakii Chandler and Hazelwood getting a win each. Cody Casen earned two saves, and Gunn earned one save.
Halifax County also has plenty of offensive power, as evidenced by its 55 runs scored during the state tournament. Hazelwood provided the long ball for Halifax County in the state tournament, hitting one grand slam homer and one three-run homer.
“They will put the ball into play,” Gunn said of the team.
“We have Tyler Collins leading off, and he will put the ball into play just about every time he steps up to the plate. When that starts the wheels in motion, it gets contagious, and everybody else gets to hitting.”
Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.