ELIZABETHTOWN — A second Robeson County team has qualified for the Dixie Youth Baseball World Series.
The West Robeson Baseball Association’s Majors All-Stars team, age 11-12, won the Division I state tournament Saturday in Elizabethtown to advance to the DYB World Series, which begins Aug. 7 in Laurel, Mississippi.
West Robeson won the tournament with a 6-2 win over host Elizabethtown in the championship game.
“Our guys played tough,” coach Eric Freeman said. “We had a lot of close games, a lot of hard competition. We had a one-run game here and there and a lot of games could’ve been decided by one hit at the right time. Our guys played tough the whole time; our defense was solid, our pitching was very good and our guys hit the ball well. When you can get a team that all three of those things come together at the same time, it makes for a championship team, really.”
The team joins Lumberton’s AAA team (age 9-10), who won their state tournament earlier this month in Norwood, representing Robeson County at the World Series.
West Robeson overcame a loss in their second state tournament game to win the championship; Whiteville beat West Robeson 3-2.
“Whiteville’s an excellent team, they’re a really good team,” Freeman said. “We played a really good game against them, so the rebound from that wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be because, even though we lost by one run, we still played very good baseball. From that it gave the guys a little humbling sensation and they really came out at the next game on fire, ready to win the tournament from that point on.”
West Robeson won their tournament opener 12-4 over South Park; after the loss to Whiteville they defeated Bladen County 5-0, South Park 10-0 and Elizabethtown 9-6 to reach the championship game.
Elizabethtown, after losing to West Robeson, defeated Fairmont 10-4 on Friday to advance to the championship and eliminate Fairmont. Fairmont defeated Columbus County 3-2 and Leland 10-0, lost to Elizabethtown 14-3 and beat Leland 14-12 to reach that round of the tournament.
Hard work and determination, Freeman said, is why West Robeson has a strong team.
“This team has a lot of heart, they have a lot of fight, they work hard,” Freeman said. “They enjoy success and they work hard to get there. This team has a lot of fight in them; they just don’t give up, down one run, two runs, five runs, 10 runs, they’re going to play hard-nosed baseball the whole game.”
“A Night at the Ballpark,” a fundraiser for the West Robeson team, will be held at the Pembroke Athletic Park Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. Admission is $20 and includes a steak plate with sides or a large pizza from The Dough Boyz WoodFired Pizza; carry out plates will be available. Admission for kids 12 and under will be free.
The event includes DJ Pierre Locklear, bounce houses and live music from Charly Lowry. State championship shirts will be for sale.
A home run derby for ages 8 to 18 will be held at 6:30 p.m. at a cost of $10.
While the fundraiser will help the team prepare financially to travel to Mississippi, the team will spend the next week preparing themselves for the competition the World Series will provide.
“Over the next week and a half we’re really going to focus on our pitching, focus on our hitting, spend a little more time on playing some small ball, getting some bunts down, working on bunt coverages,” Freeman said. “Getting the guys ready, they’ll get a lot of swings; pitchers will get a lot of time in the bullpen, infielders will get a lot of ground balls, so everybody’s geared up and ready to go.”