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Jr. Boys take state

SCOTTSBORO – Rush Hixon’s team wins the Junior Dixie Boys State Championship and he’s getting … a dog?

“Well, I made him a promise,” said assistant Coach Brett Stallworth.

And minutes after the Troy 13-year-olds beat Hartselle 15-5 to claim the state title, Hixon reminded Stallworth of that promise.

“I’m getting a dog now, Coach,” Hixon said.

Hixon, nicknamed “Sparky” by his coaches because of his infectious smile and personality, was 3-3 in the championship game, scoring two runs with an RBI.

He was, understandably, exuberant – even before he remembered the promise of the dog. So when he was presented with his very own dog – a stuffed Yorkie – at a lunch stop on the way home Tuesday, he simply beamed. “We named him ‘Champ’,” Hixon said. “We decided on that already … since we’re champs.”

Stallworth said that wasn’t the only gift he hopes is in Hixon’s future.

“You know, Rush’s birthday is the 6th (of August) and mine is the 7th,” Stallworth said. “We both want World Series rings for our birthdays.”

The Troy team will represent Alabama in the Dixie Junior Boys Baseball World Series which begins July 30 in Dothan. The team was 4-0 in the state tournament, defeating Hartselle twice; Opelika; and Westside.

The championship game, held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, started literally “with a bang,” said Coach Gary Fox, referring to Austin Ingram’s solo home run in the bottom of the first inning.

“It hit the scoreboard, dead in the center,” he said.

And the offense continued throughout the game. The Troy players had a strong showing at the plate: Ingram was 1 for 2 with a home run, three walks, three runs scored, a stolen base and two RBIs; Hunter Baggett was 5 for 5, with a double, two runs scored, one stole base and four RBIs; Xavius Burden was 1 for 2 with two walks, two runs scored and one RBI; Chase Hartley was 0 for 1 with two walks, a sacrifice fly and an RBI; Reilly Fox was 0 for 2 with a walk, hit by pitch and one run scored; Jason Fleming was 1 for 4 with a run scored and one RBI; Devin Hooks was 0 for 0, hit by a pitch twice with one run scored; Patrick Henderson was 1 for 2 with a double and one run scored; Baylor Barnes was 1 for 2 with a run scored and one RBI; and Wright Graning was 0 for 2 with one run scored.

Troy also got a strong performance from Chase Hartley on the mound.

“Chase Hartley pitched well for us,” Fox said. “He got a little tired, but he pulled it out.”

Hartley, who earned the win, pitched four innings and gave up four runs on six hits with seven strikeouts and only one walk.

Baggett came in to relieve Hartley in the middle of the fifth inning, giving up two hits, one run, two walks and getting two strikeouts, earning the save in the process

“Hunter came in and did a great job for us,” Fox said.

Now, the team is looking ahead to the World Series.

“We have to take it to the next level,” Fox said. “Competition will be much tougher. These guys will be playing the best of the best.”

That’s something that fans and supporters seem to think the team is ready to face.

“Now it’s time to get down to business,” Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford told the team during an impromptu welcome home ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the rec center. “We’re proud of what you did, but we know you expected to win state, didn’t you? You’re going on down to do some real business in Dothan … and I appreciate you representing Troy and representing our military well by dedicating this season to them.”