Troy Junior Dixie boys win World Series

Published 8:58 pm Thursday, August 6, 2009

The City of Troy can now celebrate another World Series championship.

The Troy Junior Dixie Boys are World Series champions, this after defeating Texas 6-5 in the championship game of the 2009 Junior Dixie Boys World Series in Enterprise.

Troy led 6-3 heading into the seventh inning, but Texas was able to rally for two runs and had runners on first and second with two outs.

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Head coach Sam Kitchens said there was plenty of tension in the Troy dugout.

“I was just thinking, ‘Oh, no. These kids have worked too hard for it to end like this,” Kitchens said. “I was so worried. I just didn’t know what to expect.’”

Fortunately for Troy, however, pitcher Chandler Avant was able to induce a game-ending ground ball that was hit to Troy second baseman Morgan Shaver.

Avant said he had confidence in his teammate as soon as the ball was hit.

“I thought Morgan would get to it,” Avant said. “He can really cover a lot of ground.”

Shaver said he was not nervous about making the final play of the game.

“I just knew it was coming to me when it was hit,” Shaver said. “I knew I had it. I just had to make sure that I kept my glove on the ground.”

Left fielder John Johnson responded with disbelief.

“When that ball went to Morgan, I was just thinking, ‘Oh my god. Did we really just win the World Series?’” Johnson said.

Kitchens said he had a feeling of relief.

“There was just a sense of relief,” Kitchens said. “My legs liked to have collapsed underneath me. I was just so excited for these kids.”

Kitchens was not the only one relieved, however.

“I came back with a fastball on a 1-1 count to the last batter, and he grounded the ball to second and I just felt really relieved,” Avant said.

Troy never trailed in the game, giving the Trojans their first win of the tournament that they did not have to come from behind to get.

Troy jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the third when Avant, Johnson and Loving all had RBI doubles.

Rhett Tucker added the fourth run of the inning with an RBI single.

Despite the early lead, Kitchens said he told his team not to get ahead of itself.

“I really was nervous that they were going to come back on us,” Kitchens said. “When we played them the first time, we got up 3-0 early ,and they came back and won 7-4. I knew they were going to make a comeback. It was close, and I knew coming in it would be that kind of game. I just kept telling the guys that we had to keep playing and keep scoring runs.”

Texas put runners on first and second off of Troy pitcher Blake Craft in the bottom of the fourth with no one out, but Kitchens decided to go to Avant in relief of Craft.

Texas’ Alex Kugler singled to drive in two runs, but both of those runs were charged to Craft.

Avant then struck out the next batter before getting Ryan Fant to pop out to first base to end Texas’ scoring threat.

Texas added another run in the fifth when Alex Campanini grounded out to the right side of the field to drive in Trey Worley and cut the lead to 4-3.

Troy would respond, however, in the top of the sixth, with two big insurance runs. Johnson scored from third when Texas catcher Justin Lewis threw the ball into the outfield and Tripp Blackmon scored when the Texas third baseman threw the ball over the first baseman’s head on a ground ball hit by Miles Loving.

Johnson led Troy’s offense, going 3-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Johnson’s offensive performance was his best of the tournament.

“It just feels great,” Johnson said. “I hadn’t had a good hitting game yet in the tournament, so it felt good to be able to do well in the championship game.”

While Johnson may have been the key offensive performer, the entire team was able to celebrate bringing home a World Series title.

“It’s awesome,” Avant said.

“It’s just an amazing feeling. It’s really hard to explain how it feels to accomplish this.”

For Kitchens, Shaver and catcher Chase Smartt, the World Series championship was the second of their careers.

“A lot of people don’t realize that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so to be fortunate enough to win two of these things like I have and a couple of the kids have is just remarkable,” Kitchens said.

Shaver said victory was sweeter the second time around.

“This one is a lot better,” Shaver said. “I think back then I didn’t realize how big it was.”

Kitchens said the team had gone above and beyond what he had asked of it.

“I really can’t say enough about these 12 kids,” Kitchens said.

“It’s been a pleasure to coach these kids. All 12 of them pull for each other, whether they’re out in the field or in the dugout. They just wanted to win, no matter who got to play. These kids deserved this. They’ve worked their tails off and played their tails off.”

For the team, however, winning the World Series was a goal it set for itself early on.

“They had a goal when they started practice for the district tournament, and that was to get to the World Series and win it,” Kitchens said.

“They had a goal to bring another World Series billboard to Troy and they were able to get it.”

Click here for photos from the championship game.

Click here for photos from the post game ceremony and celebration.

Click here for photos from the welcome home ceremony on Thursday.