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Troy American holds on for title

August 14, 2005

MIKE SZVETITZ / Staff Writer
Opelika-Auburn News
Article Online

Taytom Barnes knew it. So did his coach, David Dickey.
In their minds, it wasn’t even a question.
But for the rest of the 2,500-plus fans watching the AAA Dixie Youth World Series championship game Saturday night at Duck Samford Baseball Complex, the outcome left little-to-no fingernails.
As it should be, the AAA finale was a nailbiter, with Alabama holding off a late Tennessee rally to win the 50th Dixie Youth World Series, 10-9.
But it didn’t start out that way.
Nope. Saturday night’s 9-10-year-old title game began with Alabama (Troy American) sprinting out to an early lead, while Tennessee (Savannah) struggled to find its footing.
By the fifth inning, Alabama had built a 10-1 advantage over Tennessee, and not only threatened to beat the Savannah All-Stars, but came close to mercy-ruling them.
Tennessee, however, wouldn’t cry uncle.
In the bottom of the fifth, it scored eight runs, capped by a Clint Fisher grand slam, to cut Alabama’s lead to one.
“I knew in my heart they wouldn’t lay down,” Tennessee head coach Dan Adkisson said. “I just kept waiting for them to come back, and they did. They never quit.”
But even in the face of the charging Tennessee freight train, Barnes and Dickey never flinched.
“I knew we could win (the World Series) from the beginning,” said Barnes, who came in in the sixth inning and struck out the final two batters to earn the save for Alabama.
“I was a little nervous, but I knew we could do it.”
Barnes had one inning left in the tournament to pitch. Dickey knew it, and saved his ace for the perfect situation.
“I was hoping that 10-1 lead would hold up,” Dickey, Troy’s head coach, said. “But I also knew we would be in for a dogfight. We had Taytom for just one inning, and if we could get through the fifth, I knew he’d come in and help us.”
After Barnes threw his final strike, Alabama parents, brothers, sisters, fans and district directors rushed the field to congratulate the World Series champs.
Amidst the hugs and high-fives, flashbulbs popped and video cameras rolled. Hats that read “2005 World Series Champions” were passed out to the Troy All-Stars as they celebrated the biggest win of their lives in their home state.
“I am so proud of these kids,” Dickey said. “They battled and played with heart all week. We lost our second game and had to play through extra innings and late nights, but they never quit.”
Alabama lost to Auburn War Eagle in the second round of the tournament Wednesday night, and had to play through the losers’ bracket into Saturday’s final.
After that loss to Auburn, the Troy All-Stars reeled off four consecutive wins on their way to the championship.
A saving grace was the fact they didn’t have to play Saturday morning, as there were three AAA teams with one loss.
Because the World Series is a double-elimination tournament and there were three teams still alive after Friday’s semifinal round, there had to be a playoff.
The three teams had to draw for a bye into the final game.
Alabama earned the bye, meaning Tennessee had to play South Carolina early Saturday morning. Tennessee beat the Midland, S.C., team 8-7 in eight innings to advance.
It was not having to play that early game that helped Troy and ultimately hurt Tennessee.
“We needed that rest,” Dickey said. “It was a long week, we still had kids in bed at 11 this morning.”
While the Alabama All-Stars were catching up on their sleep, the Tennessee squad was out battling the hot August sun and a game South Carolina squad.
“That took a lot out of us,” Adkisson said. “We were tired.”
Tennessee had battled South Carolina for seven innings just a little bit more than 12 hours before Saturday morning’s tilt. By the time that game was over, the Savannah team had played 15 innings in about as many hours.
Then, five hours later, they would be on the field again for their third game in a day.
“But we battled,” Adkisson said when asked about his team’s fatigue. “And I can’t be disappointed when they don’t quit.”
Alabama was led by Robert Benton who went 3-for-3 with two RBI, while Brantley LeCroy was 2-for-3 with an RBI.
Reid Dickey earned the win for the Troy American All-Stars, pitching 4 2/3 innings.
Fisher paced Tennessee with a 2-for-3, four-RBI night, including that grand slam over the center-field fence to pull his team within one run.
Cade Smith also hit a home run for Tennessee.