High expectations for Troup
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It all came together when the games meant the most.
During the first weekend of the Dixie Youth Baseball state tournament, the Troup County 11-12-year-old all-stars went 0-2, but that was OK since those games were only used for seeding purposes.
Troup returned to Swainsboro the following weekend and took care of business.
After splitting a pair of games on July 12 against Wrens and Swainsboro, Troup returned to the field the following day for the championship game.
Facing Wrens, Troup County took control from the get-go on the way to an 11-0 victory.
That win gave Troup County the state championship and secured an invitation to the 12-team Dixie Youth Baseball World Series in Ruston, La.
The tournament features 11 state champions, as well as the host team.
Traveling in vans provided by LaGrange Toyota, Troup’s players left on Thursday and spent the night in Mississippi, with the players getting an opportunity to take in a minor-league baseball game.
The team finishes the journey to Louisiana on Friday, and the players will participate in a skills challenge and a home-run derby, as well as the opening ceremony.
Troup, or Team Georgia as it became after winning the state title, will play its World Series opener on Saturday at 5:45 p.m. against Mississippi.
“They’re really anxious to get out on the field,” Georgia head coach Ron Wilson said. “We tried to have some scrimmage games with some travel teams, but it’s so hard this time of year because everyone else is either at a travel-ball World Series, or they’ve shut down for the year. So we weren’t able to get any scrimmage games in, but we simulated games the best that we could in practice. We looked really good the past couple of days at practice. The boys have looked really sharp.”
Wilson added that “Bryce Hubbard has probably hit seven or eight home runs out of the park. Rob Skinner’s probably put up close to the same numbers. Cooper Stephens, he’s hit one or two, and he’s hitting the ball really well. They’re ready.”
The team was formed at the close of the Troup County Parks and Recreation Commission season in late May.
Troup didn’t have a district tournament, so its first competitive games came at state.
After the slow start, Troup showed how dangerous a team it can be by winning the state title.
“The boys are really starting to come together and form a bond, which is always good, especially right before these big games,” Wilson said. “You can tell they’ve really bonded, and I think that’s going to show out on the field, the kind of camaraderie that they have with one another.”
Wilson is appreciative of everything the players have done, and he has made sure to let all of them know what they’re doing is important.
“Each one of these guys has given up their summer to play baseball, and represent their community,” Wilson said. “That’s one of the things we’ve tried to instill in them is you’re not going out there to just represent yourself, or your mom or dad, we have a community back home that is supporting you and rooting you own. Let’s go out there and make them proud. Let’s go out there and just work really hard, and whether we win or lose, we can leave with our heads held high so that when we come back home we can tell everyone we gave it our best shot.”
Wilson is hoping it’ll be a winning weekend for his team, as well as the Troup County 9-10-year-old all-star team that’s in the World Series.
Both teams have an opportunity to accomplish something that will be remembered for a long time.
Wilson’s message to his players is “say we do win this, you’ll forever be the 2019 Dixie Youth World Series champions. Nobody will ever be able to take that away from you, just like they won’t be able to take away your 2019 state championship. So let’s go down there and give it our best shot, and let’s try to make history with the 9-10-year-olds, and the 11-12-year-olds both bringing back a world championship.”
Georgia will look to get its World Series stay started with a win over Mississippi on Saturday, and Wilson expects that to be a difficult challenge.
“We’ve got a tough opponent right out of the gate, but I kind of like that,” Wilson said. “We’ll know where we stand on the ladder right there. Mississippi usually puts in a very competitive team, and we’ve been preaching that to the boys, and the boys can’t wait to see their opponent.
Win or lose, Georgia will play again on Sunday in the double-elimination tournament.
The championship game will be on Thursday.
“I believe whole-heartedly they’re a team that can go make a very deep run in the World Series,” Wilson said.
Landon Alsobrook, Bryce Hubbard, Kaden Carlisle, Jeremiah Staples, Lucas Harpole, JR Reeves, Luke Taylor, Rob Skinner, Logan Cammon, Sammari Pope, Cooper Stephens and Trevord Handsford. Ron Wilson is the head coach, and the assistant coaches are Dusty Hubbard, Auston Wilson and Shane Campbell.