Swainsboro Dixie Youth’s 8U wrapped up their season with a trip to the 2021 state tournament, finishing fourth in Georgia at the end of the three-day affair.
Playing on the all-star team were Walker Arp, Ty Kirby, Hudson Ware, Dalton Flowers, Tanner Mitchell, Charlie McNeely, Greyson Gowen, Samuel Martin, Bentlee Akridge, Jaxin McGee, and Gunner Bedgood.
The local league held tryouts in February for all age groups, including the 8U division. Teams were formed later that month, practices started in March, and regular season games began in April and continued through the second week in May. Postseason teams were put together the following week with the 8U division picking its 11 all-stars from three teams.
Immediately, team manager Will Martin and coaches Dean Gowen, Daniel Flowers, and Matthew McNeely began working the team to become a well-oiled machine for the state tournament, which would take place June 24-26 at Southern Pines Recreation Complex in Dublin.
Seven other teams would join Swainsboro in the competition: Baldwin County, Taylor County, Irwin County, Bleckley County, Wrens, Seminole County, and Early County. Swainsboro would go on to beat two of those squads.
On Thursday, June 24, Swainsboro took on Baldwin County in Game 1 and won 15-6.
The following day, the local boys played their second and third games of the tournament. On Friday afternoon, Irwin upended Swainsboro—but the team came back strong that night with a 13-2 win against Taylor County.
On Saturday, Swainsboro fell in their final games, once to Bleckley and again to Irwin.
“The tournament was set up with two brackets consisting of four teams in each bracket,” Martin explained. “There were three games pre-scheduled with us playing against the other three teams on our side of the bracket. Those games were scheduled for Thursday night and Friday. In order to advance to the final round of tournament, which was on Saturday, we needed to win two out of three games. We did that by defeating Baldwin County on Thursday night and Taylor County on Friday night. Having lost to Irwin County on Friday morning, we faced elimination if we failed to come through on Friday night. The boys put up their best effort by far on Friday night and played a complete game with the hitting, fielding and base running all clicking in unity.”
Martin continued, saying the team was “blessed” with faithful support from the Swainsboro community as several family members and friends traveled up Highway 80 to cheer them on in route to an overall fourth place finish.
He also says the team should be proud of itself. “The Swainsboro 8U all-star team was formed after a short season, practiced for a month, participated in two practice games, and competed in the state tournament. Considering those parameters, Swainsboro competed very well and represented our community in a way that I think we should be thankful for.”
In closing, the future for this age group, Martin says, is bright. Four boys on this year’s 8U all-star team were 7-years-old, allowing them to return to 8U next year. In turn, the foundation should be solid and the local league should be able to continue to field a competitive group of kids at the end of the 2022 season.