Next stop, World Series

First Posted: 7/23/2009

HILLSVILLE, Va. Two days after earning a spot in the Dixie World Series, members of Carroll Countys Dixie Pre-Majors were still having trouble comprehending the magnitude of their accomplishment.
With a 14-3 win over Powhatan on July 14 in South Boston, Carroll Countys 15- and 16-year-old all-stars became the first dixie or little league team from the county to win a Virginia state title in 22 years. In fact, the feat had only been accomplished by one other team in county history, back in 1987 when Carrolls 13- and 14-year-old Dixie Boys All-Stars captured the state crown.
The buzz Carrolls state title has created throughout the county has been overwhelming to the players, Jordan Lamb said. At the same time, the standout infielder and slugger said the enormity of the teams achievement hasnt sunk in yet.
Right now it doesnt feel quite real, Lamb said. We went down there and did what we had to do. We had one state of mind, to win it. I guess it will feel real next week.
Like Lamb, right fielder Craig Rosen said the team was too focused on taking care of business on the field to realize the magnitude of the teams state championship.
Honestly, it feels like we are just doing what we are supposed to do. When we won the championship game I think everybody was more worried about where we were going to eat at, Rosen said. But then on the way home people starting calling me and asking how we did. Thats when it sunk in how enormous it was, how great we did. But we were just out there having fun.
And while head coach Darrin Matthews said Carrolls intent focus on the field was a large reason behind its success, he also wanted the team to be able to enjoy their mammoth accomplishment.
Man, it feels wonderful. I told our kids, You guys dont have any idea, but you are Virginia state champions. It doesnt matter if it is Little League or Dixie or VHSL, to be a state champion is something special, Matthews said. I think it will start to set in for them next week. I told the guys, You can always say from here on out you are a state champion and you will play in a world series. Regardless of how you play, you are going to a world series. Ive been coaching for 25 years and every coachs quest is to win a state title. This feels as good as anything Ive ever won.
Carrolls state championship run started July 10 with a 7-1 victory over host and tournament favorite Halifax County. Lee Underwood struck out 13 and allowed three hits in a complete-game victory. Carroll followed that win up with a 17-0 slaughter-rule victory over Powhatan in five innings as Anthony Rosenbaum threw a two-hit shutout. On July 12, Carroll improved to 3-0 by defeating Goochland County 10-4.
Carrolls biggest challenge came July 13 in a rematch with Halifax County in the double-elimination tournament. With the game locked in a scoreless tie after seven innings, Lamb sparked Carroll with a one-out single in the top of the eighth. Rosen was then hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second before Shane Webb singled to left to score Lamb for a 1-0 lead. Lee Underwood came on in relief in the bottom half of the inning and only required 11 pitches to retire Halifax in order to secure the victory.
With the win over Halifax, Carroll earned a berth in the state title game against a Powhatan team it had hammered three days earlier. Carroll picked up where it left off with an 11-run win in six innings. Underwood and Lamb led off the game by drawing walks. Jordan Hawks then drove in Underwood with an RBI single, while Rosen later scored on an error to give Carroll a 2-0 lead.
Carroll tacked on four more runs in the second as Blake Bowman led off with a walk, Underwood reached on an error and Lamb walked to load the bases. Hawks and Shane Webb followed with two-run singles to put the team ahead 6-0.
Carroll increased its lead to 9-0 in the third as Lamb drove in Bowman and Underwood with a two-run double. Lamb later scored on Rosens sacrifice fly to left.
Underwood only gave up three hits in five innings of work, but Powhatan responded with three runs in the fourth to trim the deficit to 9-3. Carroll bounced back in the fifth as Rosen doubled. Shane Webb drove in Rosen and Dillon Bryant with a two-run single for an 11-3 advantage. Carroll ended the game in the sixth as Garrett Nelson drove in Lamb with a single to right center. Bryant and Nelson both scored on Jared Coxs double to provide the final scoring.
We have great pitching and that is the key. We played five games and our pitchers pitched complete games, Matthews said. Our pitching was just unbelievable. We also played good defense behind those guys. And we did hit the ball well. The name of the game in high school and down is put it in play. We got a bunch of timely hits and we did hit it hard, but we hit it hard enough at times where other teams booted it around and that kept it going.
By winning the Virginia State title, Carroll County earned a berth in the Dixie World Series in Ozark, Alabama. Carroll was scheduled to open the double-elimination tournament against the Tennessee state champions on July 25 at 4 p.m. at G.W. Long High School. State champions from Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina will also be represented in the 12-team tournament, along with a host team from Ozark, Ala. The championship game is set for July 29.
While part of Carrolls success came from its mindset, the experience of being there before paid big dividends as well. This year marked the fifth straight season the Carroll Dixie Pre-Majors have made it to the state tournament. Lamb, Rosen, Bowman and Tyler Snow were on last years Dixie Pre-Majors team that it made it to the state title game before eventually falling to Halifax County.
It helped get the jitters out. It took us a couple of years to get everything working, but we did it and it is showing, Rosen said. Every year since weve been going up there we have gotten better each year from third place to second place, and this year was our year. Now we have to go to Alabama and show everybody what we are made of. We are going to give it everything weve got.
And while Matthews said this years Carroll team has already came up big on and off the field, he feels like the championship exposure and national-level competition will pay off for the baseball program in the near future.
The people of Carroll would be proud to say these kids came from Carroll County because they really represented the county well, Matthews said. And I think it is great for the kids because they are getting a taste of the national level of competition and how important it is to be ready to play and play well. You dont often get to travel from state-to-state and play baseball like a champion like that and see what other teams offer as far as their brand of baseball. Any time you travel and see other teams and see how you stack up, you see what you need to improve on and what you do well.

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