By Brian Jessup
There was a time when the Virginia state champions, Patrick county O-Zone All Stars, appeared to be on the verge of entering the final four teams remaining in the 2019 Dixie Youth World Series. Virginia (Patrick County) was playing the Louisiana state champions but couldn’t erase a 4-run first inning by Louisiana and lost the game 5-4 at the Ruston Sports Complex in Ruston, Louisiana. Patrick County had runners in scoring positions multiple times late in the game but couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.
The 2019 Dixie Youth World Series began on August 2, 2019 with state champions from 11 states. Teams from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina and Virginia were all in Ruston, Louisiana vying for the prestigious 2019 Dixie Youth World Series Championship.
Patrick County started the double elimination series with a loss against a strong Mississippi team.
“We couldn’t have asked for a more heartbreaking way to start the World Series than the way we did,” said Coach Brian Jessup. “We simply didn’t play normal Patrick County baseball that we’re accustomed to. I’m not sure if it was the 95 degree temperature, nerves, playing in a brand new $38 million complex on perfectly manicured turf infield and outfields or the previous days 13 hour drive to Louisiana but we didn’t perform as we should have” Jessup added.
Game 2 of the World Series pitted Patrick County against the state champions from Arkansas. The team rebounded nicely from the prior day loss, winning decisively 11-0.
“It seemed like we finally settled down during the Arkansas game and regained our composure. We performed well offensively and defensively, only allowing 1 hit and racking up 13 hits of our own during the game,” Jessup said. “The game was really close going into the fourth inning when we were up just 1-0. Thankfully we had a huge fourth inning and completely took any momentum Arkansas had.”
The same day, North Carolina (from South Stanly County) was seemingly on their way home with their second loss of the series to the state champions from Georgia. Down 7-3, going into the bottom of the sixth inning, North Carolina rallied to score 5 runs to live to play another day. This victory sent North Carolina to a neighbor matchup with the adjoining state champions from Virginia the next day.
“Our game with North Carolina was one of the better baseball games you’ll ever see,” Jessup said. Both teams fought extremely hard throughout the contest with four lead changes throughout the game. Virginia held the home team North Carolina scoreless in the bottom of the sixth inning to win the game 4-3.
“It was a go or go home situation for both our teams. Each team had a lot on the line,” he added. “We had clutch hits in the top of our line up during the third inning to secure the lead, and our pitching was phenomenal throughout the game. It’s very rewarding to see our boys compete so well under such tremendous pressure” Jessup continued.
With the victory over North Carolina, Virginia kept its World Series hopes alive and allowed them to join the quarterfinals with the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Texas and South Carolina.
Patrick County played its final game of the World Series on the championship field of the Ruston Sports Complex with a matchup with the state champs from Monroe, Louisiana, just 30 minutes down the road from Ruston. Louisiana reached the quarterfinals by eliminating Mississippi the previous day. “We felt really good going into the game with Louisiana,” Jessup said. “After watching game films of Louisiana’s previous three games in the Series, we knew they were a really good, solid team and it wouldn’t be easy to take out the hometown favorites.”
To Patrick County’s misfortune, it started out the game allowing 4 runs in the first inning, a hole they were never able to completely dig out of. Virginia fought from behind the whole game and seemed to be ready to either tie the game or take the lead with multiple opportunities to score with runners on second and third. “It just wasn’t our day and not meant to be. It’s heartbreaking to lose a game when you know you were better than the other team. However, at this level of play, you can’t make five fielding errors in a World Series game and expect to win. The game of baseball can be very cruel to you and someone has to win and lose. I tip my hat to Louisiana because we had them on the ropes several times throughout the game when they made clutch outs to strand many of our runners to end the scoring threat” Jessup continued.
Although eliminated from the World Series, Virginia (Patrick County) made history by earning an achievement Dixie Youth officials say is its most prized trophy, the World Series Sportsmanship Award. At the conclusion of the championship game between Alabama and South Carolina, Virginia was presented the coveted Charles Harris Sportsmanship Award. The award is given to the team in the World Series who exemplifies great conduct, behavior and care for those on and off the field during the Series. This is the first time in the history of Dixie Youth since it was founded in 1955 for Patrick County to receive the award. “What an honor it is to receive this. I’m so happy for our coaches, players and parents to be recognized by the Dixie Youth Commissioner, Wes Skelton, state officials from across the 11 states competing, broadcast announcers and the Ruston Sports Complex officers,” Jessup said.
“I constantly preach to our team about being Patrick County gentleman on and off the field. It’s so gratifying to see these young players exemplify how others should act in their everyday walk of life. It’s nice to see a team from a small rural county likes ours make such an impact on so many people,” he added.
“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who made this trip possible. So many have given of their time and finances to see that we had everything needed for the World Series. These young men have made memories that will last a lifetime and I’m so happy to have been a part of it. It has been a tremendous blessing to represent Patrick County,” Jessup said.
Team members include Lucas Taylor, son of Rob & Cheryl Taylor; Easton Harris, son of Terry & April Harris; Noah Jessup, son of Brian & Traci Jessup; Chance Corns, son of Chad & Amy Corns; Broc Taylor, son of Andrew Taylor and Jordan Taylor; David Lawson, son of DJ & Miranda Lawson; Hunter Heath, son of Randy & Sandra Heath; Hunter Pendleton, son of Tony & Amy Pendleton; Stuart Callahan, son of Stuart Callahan, Sr. and Misty Roberts; Jackson Horton, son of Blake & Dee Horton; Gavin Fain, son of Jerimiah & Melody Fain and Avery Brintle, son of Eric & Bethany Brintle.
Brian Jessup is head coach of the team, assisted by DJ Lawson, Michael Hall, Rob Taylor and Chad Corns.