VALDOSTA -- They are already state champions. Now a local Valdosta Boys Club 18-year old team would love to add "World Series Champions" to their title.
The 18-year olds from the Boys Club will represent the state of Georgia in the 2001 Dixie World Series, beginning Saturday in North Charleston, S.C. Head coach Jeremy Pridgen is taking a squad of 13 players he believes can compete with any other team there.
"I think we've got a chance, I really do," Pridgen said. "These guys are going up there to win."
Since they will be representing the state of Georgia, the team will be wearing black hats with the University of Georgia logo on them. And just like the Bulldogs, they will be playing in their level's World Series.
"It's great for us to be going to this," Pridgen said. "We worked hard to get here."
Pridgen's team is solid from top to bottom. Nearly every player was an All-Region selection in their respective region this past season. One was Region Co-Player of the Year. Five players batted over .400.
Speedy Will Peterson, who stole 30 bases for Valdosta High this season and hit three home runs in the Dixie state tournament, will lead off and play center field. Josh Pridgen, a .400 hitter at Lowndes last year, bats second and plays second. Blake Thompson, the region Co-Player of the Year at Lowndes, bats third and plays third.
Batting cleanup is Josh Owsley, a shortstop who hit .420 with seven homers for Cook last year. Buck Cargile, Lowndes' tall first baseman, will bat fifth.
The rest of the lineup has Chad Pearce, a .482 hitter for Valdosta High this year, playing left. Ty Megahee, who hit .476 for Colquitt County, will be in right. Brian Bass of Lowndes is the catcher. But the biggest factor in how well the team does is pitching, and Pridgen is more than happy with the staff he has.
"We've got an excellent pitching staff," Pridgen said. "Jeff McCarthy and Brandon Durden are my starters. Ty Megahee and David Mederos will pitch middle relief, and Blake will be the closer. They all did the job at state, and I'm confident they can do it (at the World Series) as well."
McCarthy was arguably Region 1-AAAAA's best pitcher, going 11-2 for Lowndes. Durden had a good year at Cook as a junior this year. At state, both left-handers were dominant. McCarthy opened the tournament with a no-hitter, then Durden took a no-hit bid into the seventh the next day. Megahee and Mederos were solid starters at Colquitt and Coffee, while Thompson was 6-1 for LHS.
Last week, the Boys Club swept through the competition at the state Dixie tournament in LaGrange, going undefeated.
Pridgen and assistant coach Stephen Haney have been in this situation before, albeit as players, not coaches. They were both on the 1998 Dixie state champions, also from the Boys Club, who played in the World Series in Florence, S.C.
"It was a great experience that year," Pridgen said. "And I'm sure it will be one for these guys, too."
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