Three years ago, Nathan Snow, Josh Underwood and Bronson Bowman watched as their older siblings represented Carroll County in the Dixie Pre-Majors World Series. Now, it’s the younger brothers’ turn.
Carroll County’s 15-17 year-old all-star baseball team punched its ticket to Guntersville, Alabama on July 11 with a dramatic 8-7 win over Halifax County in the state championship game in South Boston. Carroll, which won its first four games in the double-elimination tournament, had to hold on after Halifax won 13-10 in the first game that night. Since Carroll had already handed Halifax a loss earlier in the tournament, one more game was needed to decide a champion.
Carroll had to hold off a furious rally as Halifax battled back from an 8-4 deficit to pull to within 8-7 in the seventh and final inning. Ryan Gravley started the game on the mound for Carroll and pitched 6.2 innings before giving way to Blake Wood, who had not pitched the entire tournament. After allowing a runner to reach on an error, Wood struck out the next batter with men on second and third to secure Carroll’s berth in the World Series.
“Everybody went nuts. There was a big dogpile after the game because everybody was so excited,” said Carroll coach Larry Snow. “It feels great. These kids have put in so much over the years. All these boys have played fall ball and travel ball and they committed to playing Dixie for the summer. I can’t say enough about how good a group of boys they are.”
The state championship was twice as nice for Carroll as it came over its nemesis, Halifax County. Last year, Halifax defeated Carroll in the state championship game, keeping Carroll out of the World Series. Last year, Dixie Pre-Majors’ teams consisted of 15 - and 16- year olds. This year, the 17-year old age group was added, which is good news for Snow’s squad because it will return the bulk of its team next year.
Snow’s team will be just the third in county history to make a trip to the Dixie World Series. After Carroll’s 13- and 14-yeaer-old Dixie Boys captured the state crown in 1987, no county team had accomplished the feat again until the Carroll Dixie Pre-Majors did it in 2009. Nathan Snow, Josh Underwood and Bronson Bowman all made the trip to Alabama and experience the World Series that year as their older brothers Tyler Snow, Lee Underwood and Blake Bowman all played for Carroll that season.
This year’s team made it back to Alabama thanks to superb defense and excellent hitting. In fact, Snow said his team played great defense the entire tournament until making a few errors the final night.
“I think nerves had a little bit to do with that, but overall we played great defense. We made a number of great plays. I can’t count how many diving stops we had,” Snow said. “Blake Wood at third base made two or three diving plays.”
Timely hitting was also a key for Carroll. Of course, that is a lot easier to do when the three, four, five and six hitters in your lineup bat over .400 for the tournament, and the number nine hitter also surpasses that mark.
“If the middle of the lineup is producing like that, you are usually going to score some runs,” Snow said. “In the championship game, Brandon Lineberry had a two-run homer in the third inning and a bases-loaded double in the fourth that cleared the bases.”
Aside from Lineberry’s powerful day at the plate, Carroll provided plenty of additional support. Playing small ball in the fifth, Blake Wood singled in Nathan Snow, while Blake Dalton stole home later in the inning. After a couple of walks in the sixth inning, Nathan Snow drove in what proved to be the winning run on a fielder’s choice.
“That put us up 8-4 and it ended up being a big insurance run because they scored three more in the bottom of the sixth,” Snow said. “The ending was dramatic but we have such good kids. They were well-behaved while they were there and good representatives of Carroll County. And every kid contributed. Every kid either scored or produced a run sometime during the tournament. I’m very proud of them.”
Opening Ceremonies for the Dixie Pre-Majors World Series will be July 27 in Guntersville, Ala. Carroll’s first game will be July 28 at 7 p.m. against the host team from Guntersville. There will be 12 teams total in the double-elimination tournament, including state champions from Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama.