Halifax County Dixie Youth Baseball Minors All-Stars Coach Justin Saunders and assistant coaches Jason Strohm and Jonathon Milam wanted two things out of their team this summer.
The first was for them to be a squad that stuck to the fundamentals and the second was for them to be a team of true grit.
By the time the dust settled on the end of the summer, Saunders and his staff had accomplished both feats.
Halifax rode both traits to the 2022 Virginia Dixie Youth Baseball state championship and an appearance in the 2022 Dixie Youth Baseball Division I AAA World Series in Lumberton, North Carolina.
However, the Halifax Minors weren’t satisfied with just showing up. Instead, they turned in a 3-2 record to finish third place in the tournament consisting of state champions from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
Halifax 6 Texas 5
Halifax fans might have needed to take a few breaths into a brown paper bag following the All-Stars’ World Series opener against the Longview All-Stars (Texas).
The Minors All-Stars entered their final at-bat facing a 5-3 deficit. However, the H-town All-Stars got down to the nitty gritty, scoring three runs in the sixth to steal the walk-off win. Graham Hall got the party started with his lead-off walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a groundout back to the pitcher. Colt Franklin got on with the tying run after being hit by a pitch and West Shotwell tied the game at 5-5 with his two-run single to leftfield. Camden Brooks dropped in a single to keep the rally going and Christian Whitehead loaded the bases after being hit by a pitch.
A wild pitch brought Shotwell home, lifting Halifax to the thrilling, walk-off victory.
Longview took the momentum from jump street, plating a trio of runs on a two-run single and RBI double in the first.
The Halifax Minors got busy playing catchup, cutting their deficit in half in the first when Saunders scored on a wild pitch to make it a 3-1 contest.
Longview struck back with a run in the second on an RBI groundout to extend its lead to three. An RBI single in the third gave Longview a four-run cushion heading into the middle frames.
Halifax didn’t quit, though, pulling back within three in the third on Brooks’ RBI double to center.
A wild pitch in the fourth scored James Horne and got the H-Town All-Stars within two at 5-3.
Shotwell paced Halifax with a pair of RBIs on two hits while Saunders, Shotwell and Brooks all recorded a pair of hits apiece.
Horne got the win on the bump, striking out three in 3.1 innings pitched.
North Carolina 10 Halifax 7
Halifax put together another rally in its winner’s bracket matchup against Leland AAA National (North Carolina) but couldn’t sustain it as Leland handed the All-Stars their first loss of the tournament.
The H-Town All-Stars entered the bottom of the fourth facing a 4-1 deficit. However, like they did the previous night, the All-Stars found a way to rally back, scoring a quartet of runs in the fourth to take the lead. With the bases loaded, Franklin scored Jordan Shelton on his RBI groundout to second and Nate Newton’s two-run fielder’s choice knotted things up at 4-4. A passed ball scored Aiden Fisher with the go-ahead run.
It didn’t take long for Leland to change the momentum as it tied things up at 5-5 on an RBI single in the fifth. The North Carolina squad plated the go-ahead run on an RBI groundout in the sixth. However, Halifax landed a counter punch on Brooks’ bases-loaded walk that tied the score at 6-6.
In the end, Leland got the last laugh as it scored four runs in the seventh to put Halifax in a 10-6 hole entering its final at-bat. Halifax kept fighting, though, scoring a run in the seventh on Fisher’s fielder’s choice to second.
Whitehead led Halifax’s offense with a pair of hits while Brooks, Fisher, Franklin and Newton all drove in runs.
Halifax 11 Lumberton 5
Back in 2016, dressed in full Chicago Cubs garb, comedian Bill Murray crashed a White House press conference to inform the nation his Cubs had too many sticks not to win the World Series.
Murray would’ve said the same thing about Halifax after watching its explosive offense in the All-Stars’ loser’s bracket matchup against host Lumberton.
Halifax exploded for a combined eight runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
Whitehead (passed ball), Maddox Milam (two-run single) and Brooks (RBI groundout) accounted for all four of the All-Stars’ runs in the fourth that gave them a 7-0 lead heading into the back third.
The fifth proved the big difference maker as Whitehead (passed ball), Hall (RBI single), Milam (RBI groundout) and Saunders (RBI single) accounted for a four-run rally that gave Halifax an 11-0 lead.
Lumberton answered back with four runs in the fifth and one in the sixth to lead to the final score.
Milam had a monster night for Halifax, driving in a game-high four runs while Saunders, Brooks, Horne, Hall and Fisher drove in a run apiece as well. Whitehead paced Halifax with three hits while Saunders, Shotwell, Hall and Fisher smacked a pair of hits as well.
Hall got the win on the bump, throwing three innings of three-hit, shutout ball while striking out four.
Halifax 5 Ruston 3
Things got a little more interesting from there as Halifax had to hold off a late comeback from Ruston American Dixie (Louisiana) to advance to the semifinals of the World Series.
Trailing 5-0 entering the fourth, things didn’t look good for Ruston. However, it proved looks could be deceiving, scoring a pair of runs in the fourth to trim its deficit to three. Ruston inched a bit closer in the fifth, scoring a run to pull within 5-3.
Things got particularly interesting in the sixth when a single to center and walk put the tying runs on board with two outs. However, Halifax was able to induce a caught stealing and groundout to hold the rally and steal the win.
Horne picked up the win on the bump in a four-inning start while Brooks earned the save, throwing two innings of one-hit, shutout relief and striking out three.
Halifax opened the contest strong, using Horne’s RBI triple and a run on a passed ball to take a 2-0 lead into the second. Milam extended the H-Town All-Stars’ lead to three in the second on his RBI single.
Saunders and Shotwell rounded out Halifax’s scoring in the third when they scored on a pair of passed balls to make it 5-0.
South Carolina 11 Halifax 1
The Blythewood Minors All Stars (South Carolina) scored a combined eight runs over the first four innings to steal the momentum and never look back as it eliminated Halifax in the semifinals.
Whitehead led the All-Stars with a pair of hits while Shotwell and Fisher smacked a hit apiece as well.