E.A. Sports Today

‘This is our time’

Mississippi champion Walthall County has two impressive wins in its first-ever trip to the DYB World Series after blanking defending Majors champs

Waltham third baseman J. Scott McKenzie (4) leads his Mississippi Majors All-Stars off the field after they beat Headland Monday in the Dixie Youth World Series. On the cover, manager Kirk Bobb talks to his team about what’s next after it just beat the defending series champions.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — For as long as he’s been playing Dixie Youth Baseball, which has pretty much been his entire life, J. Scott McKenzie has dreamed of playing in the World Series and not just playing but making a play.

The Walthall County, Miss., third baseman got to live his dream Monday and the play he made in the World Series at Choccolocco Park turned out to be a pretty big one for a lot of reasons.

McKenzie speared a hot liner on the hot corner for the final out of his team’s 6-0 winner’s bracket shutout of Headland in what certainly qualifies as the upset of the tournament.

Here’s why it’s more than just a game: Walthall has had a Dixie Youth Baseball program since 1955 and this is the first time it has ever been in the World Series. Headland is the defending World Series champions and has a good number of players back from that team.

“We’ve never been here before,” said Walthall manager Kirk Bobb, a propane truck driver back in Tylertown, the one-light town in south Mississippi where the team is based. “Our program has been going since 1955 and we had never had a state champion until this group of boys this year.

“The best we ever did in the state was 2-2 and we went 5-1 this year. They know the history but I don’t think understand it. I really don’t think they understand where they’re at here. They know they’re here, they know they’re playing ball; it’s what they love to do.”

Where they are is 2-0 and about to play South Park, N.C., today at 4 p.m. for a spot in the winner’s bracket showdown of unbeatens. The Tar Heel team has thrown a pair of shutouts in its first two games (15-0, 7-0). Walthall edged Texas 3-2 in its first-ever World Series game Saturday.

“We honestly believe this is our time,” Bobb said. “These kids believe, us coaches believe in the, our parents – Walthall County, we travel heavy – and everybody truly believe this is our time.”

The upstarts have been riding this wave on the arms of their pitchers. On Monday, their three aces – Roger Ratcliff, Jeremiah Dillon and closer Jeremias Conerly – held Headland to one hit, a fourth-inning single by Mason Steele, and struck out nine. Dillon also hit a two-run homer.

Both teams’ staffs were putting up zeroes before Walthall broke it open by scoring three runs with two outs in the fifth. The first run scored when Gage Willoughby’s sharp chop handcuffed Headland second baseman Cole Goodson, the second on a passed ball and the third when Wildrekus Johnson dropped an RBI single into center field.

Headland put two runners on with two outs in the sixth before McKenzie made his play to end the game.

“This is fun,” McKenzie said. “It’s always been a dream of mind to come to the World Series and at least make a play in the World Series. I’d be speechless if we won, just going home with a big ol’ World Series ring with my state ring. Whew, it’d be unreal.”

O-ZONE SERIES: A catcher’s interference opened the door to seven two-out runs in the first inning that carried Alabama champion Fairhope to an 11-0 win over Appomattox, Va., and a bye into the battle of bracket unbeatens.

Fairhope awaits the winner of Tuesday’s South Carolina-Texas game for a chance to take the driver’s seat in the tournament. “It’s like winning a game without having to play one,” manager Andy Malone said.

(UPDATE: The SC-Texas game was scheduled for 4 p.m., but the heavy overnight rain has delayed the 2 p.m. start of the day’s schedule to an undetermined time.)

Fairhope has won its first two games by a combined score of 27-0.

“They’ve swung it pretty well both games,” Malone said. “We were fortunate that first inning there; that could’ve easily been a shutout inning. I wouldn’t say this is typical, but we’re a pretty solid team.”

And it’s a seasoned bunch. Several on the roster were on the team were Series runnerups at 8-year-olds, more than half were on the 10-year-old runner-up team. Last year’s team finished second in the state – to the team that finished second in the World Series.

John Malone had a single and an opposite-field homer in the big first inning against Virginia. Caden Creel and Brooks Brasfield homered in their tournament opener.

“If we keep playing like we were I think we have a good chance of winning it all,” John said.

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