The 2013 Dixie Youth Baseball World Series in Laurel, Miss., is now in the history books with champions crowned in three divisions. All eyes (and ears) in Bartow were focused on the Majors division as the local team was in action, representatives of the state of Florida. Through the efforts of WWBF 1130AM, those who couldn’t make the 800-mile one-way trip to the games themselves were kept informed and entertained of the team’s progress on a daily basis.
The Bartow squad started the tournament with afternoon play last Saturday against the state champions from Arkansas. Bartow showed their balance in producing offense as well as strong pitching and good defense en route to a 9-2 opening win. Their next opponent was the team from Georgia who had a pretty potent offense of their own. Georgia won the Sunday game by a 14-7 count to send the Florida champs down to the lower bracket.
From this point, Florida would begin playing other teams that had one loss. The tournament is double elimination, so a second loss meant the end of the tournament. Bartow wasn’t ready to come home. On Monday, the closest game of the tournament saw Florida edge South Carolina by an 8-7 count. The Tuesday game was one peppered with controversial decisions on balls and strikes as well as field calls, potentially taking the game out of the hands of the players and into the talents of the officiating crew. To make matters worse, the weather played a role in the game against North Carolina. Bartow built up a good lead, only to have North Carolina storm back into the game. North Carolina would catch up to close the gap to 7-5 with Florida out front in the last inning. With two outs and North Carolina runners on every base, officials suspended play for lightning. The teams had to endure a 51-minute game delay before putting players back in position for what proved to be two pitches. Bartow held on to move out as the top team in the lower bracket and face unbeaten Louisiana.
With only three teams remaining (Mississippi was defeated by Louisiana to face the winner of the Louisiana-Florida game on Thursday), the teams hit the field for the Wednesday contest. Louisiana went ahead early with a solo home run in the top of the first, but Florida answered in the bottom half of the inning with a Jordan Daughtry blast bringing in Nic Tamayo to give Bartow a 2-1 advantage.
From that point, Louisiana started getting their runs in bunches and Bartow was forced into a catch-up role. Once again, inconsistent officiating, including the awarding of first base to a batter who squared to bunt and was hit by the pitch without pulling back the bat, started to become a factor. Louisiana batters began to spray the ball with power and consistency and Bartow fielders were making plays, but unable to get outs. Soon, Louisiana had built a substantial lead, but Bartow did not quit. The team fought back, but fell short and ended up on the wrong side of a 21-7 scoreboard. That game ended the team’s hopes, but not before they could lay claim to third place among the 12 teams in competition.
Louisiana defeated Mississippi, 7-1, the next day to become the 2013 World Series champions.
For some players on the Florida team, it was their second consecutive World Series, but this one came a long way from home. It was yet another experience in the lives of young baseball players that will have an impact for a lifetime. The scores will soon be forgotten, but the memories will always be there.
The 2013 Florida state champions were Jordan Daughtry, Carlos Fernandez, Ryan Harbin, Noah Lewis, Jake Manley, Mason Neller, Jacob Olinger, PJ Sloan, Nic Tamayo, Bryce Walker, David Wilson and Tucker Wiltrout. The team was managed by John Marc Tamayo with coaches Wayne Olinger and Mike Walker.