The Dixie Boys and Dixie Junior Boys World Series tournaments kicked off Friday night in Bluffton with opening ceremonies, and Beaufort County is determined to put its best foot forward – not only as host, but also on the field.
In hopes of taking full advantage of the automatic bid awarded to the host team, Beaufort County will field teams consisting of players from throughout the county in both brackets, drawing from leagues in Beaufort, Bluffton, and Hilton Head Island.
“The good thing about this team is they’ve all either played together or against each other since they were 7 years old,” said Brian Laing, head coach for the Beaufort County all-star team competing in the Dixie Boys (14U) bracket. “We have really good team chemistry, and that’s tough when you’re pulling kids from three different towns.”
Laing said his team’s lineup is loaded with potent bats, and he expects his team to play great defense. The key, as is often the case in tournament play, will be how well the pitching staff holds up.
The other tricky factor for the host teams is keeping the players sharp despite not playing in district and state tournaments. The local teams primarily have practiced and played intrasquad scrimmages while the rest of the tournament field consists of state champions from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Laing had a tough time finding his team games because Dixie Boys baseball is played on fields with 80-foot basepaths and 54-foot pitching mounds, while most 14-year-old leagues play on regulation 90-foot basepaths and 60-foot, 6-inch, pitching mounds. The team entered one tournament, but it was rained out after one game.
Nonetheless, many of the players stayed sharp by playing with other teams leading up the tournament and are ready to representing the host county.
Both local teams play their first round games at 7 p.m. Saturday at Oscar Frazier Park.