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Junior Boys advance to World Series

There was a time — albeit a short time — that the Halifax County Dixie Junior Boys all-star team appeared a little flustered in Tuesday’s championship game of the Virginia Dixie Junior Boys State Tournament at the Day Complex.

A leadoff triple by Carroll County’s Brandt Puckett and a Halifax County error allowed Carroll County to plate a run in the top of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead.

“The guys came in (off of the field) and they were a little nervous,” said Halifax County Manager Donnie Balducci.

“We told them they (Carroll County) put a run on the board in the first inning the first time they played us, and we came back and scored five runs in the first inning.”

Balducci’s reminder to his players apparently was taken to heart.

Halifax County leadoff batter Brayden Moore reached base on an error and pinch runner TaTa Logan scored when Dawson Watts followed with a double to even the game at 1-1.

Clay Lloyd came up with a double on a play that saw Watts get tagged out at the plate while attempting to score on the hit. Jake McLamb followed with another double to score pinch runner Scott Nester to give South Boston a 2-1 lead.

From that point on, it was smooth sailing for Halifax County.

Halifax County scored two runs in both the second inning and third inning and broke the game open with a five-run rally in the fourth inning enroute to an 11-1 win in five innings.

That rally started with a walk to Moore. Dawson Watts reached base on an error that allowed Nester, running for Moore, to score and put Halifax County up 7-1.

A triple from Lloyd scored Watts to make the score 8-1. McLamb reached base on an error, allowing Lloyd to score and make it a 9-1 game. Later in the inning, a single by Nester scored a run to make it 10-1. Another Carroll County error, this one on an attempted pickoff play at first base, allowed Patrick Salley to score and give Halifax County its 10-run edge.

The win in the state championship propels Halifax County into the Dixie Junior Boys World Series, which opens Aug. 3 in Columbus, Ga. 

“I’ve got a great group of kids and two great coaches,” Balducci said.

“It’s great group of kids. I love coaching them.”

Halifax County easily rolled through the state tournament, rolling up impressive numbers of runs with its hot bats.

A dozen hits was more than enough to get the job done in the championship game. Dawson Watts, Lloyd and McLamb each had two hits, with McLamb being credited with a pair of RBIs.

Moore, Hunter Watts, Evan Irby, Nester, Will Schier and Parker Franklin each had a hit in the game.

“It was great hitting by the kids,” Balducci said when asked about the key to the game.

“They just hit the ball.

While Halifax County’s offensive was rolling along at full steam, pitcher Brayden Moore gave a solid effort in helping hold Carroll County at bay. Moore struck out seven batters while allowing one walk and two hits. 

Five Carroll County errors also helped Halifax County’s cause.

“We just told our players to keep their eyes on the prize — that was winning the state tournament,” Balducci said. 

“We just told them to keep going after it.”