MILLEDGEVILLE — Coming off a rocky season where the Orange Crush travel baseball team experienced both ups and downs, the local 10 and under squad defied the odds winning the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Class-AAA World Series held in Atlanta Sunday.
The Crush defeated the Home Plate Chili Dogs out of Peachtree City with a score of 5-3 to finish 7-1 in the tournament that began on Wednesday, improving their overall team record to 34-17 for the year.
“This is our third tournament win of the year, but this is the most special,” Lee McLemore, head coach, said. “It blows my mind that we went over there and pulled this off with the caliber of teams that were there. We started and ended with a win.”
Though the team played through rough patches after winning its first tournament of the year, McLemore and his coaches, Ryan McDonel, David Dyer, Jamey Williamson and Jimmy Jones, had the boys playing their best at the USSSA World Series.
“We started this year with a bang, meaning we won our first tournament and our expectations have been kind of high. It was a surprise that they played a complete tournament from start to finish,” McLemore said. “They played play-to-play and did everything you’re supposed to do. I’m not surprised that they could do it; I’m just surprised that they were able to put it together after our rocky season.”
Gaining momentum with a win in the team’s tournament opener, the Orange Crush played mistake-free baseball to earn their World Series victory.
“In AAA baseball, it’s a matter of who makes the mistakes, and we didn’t make mistakes,” McLemore said. “They played extremely well from start to finish. Our first five or six games, I think we had five errors.”
McLemore was impressed most with his pitching in the five-day tournament that saw action from Jackson Jones, William Knowles, Bryce Folendore, James Williamson and Taylor Dixon.
“They all five pitched great innings this weekend,” McLemore said. “They were our five pitchers that we leaned on all week.”
Jones pitched five innings in the championship game to earn the game’s Most Valuable Player award, while Knowles sealed the deal for the Crush pitching the sixth inning.
Pulling double duty at points in the tournament, Dixon pitched for the team but also proved to be the team’s go-to catcher during the World Series, earning him the Best Defensive Player award for the Championship game.
“This weekend we went back to letting him catch almost all innings, he and James Williamson. Taylor did an excellent job,” McLemore said. “The key to good pitching is good strong catchers.”
Defensively, the Orange Crush relied heavily on center fielder Mason Seymore, who made big plays for the team over the weekend.
“Mason Seymore made some outstanding plays in center field, and has some great speed and a lot of range,” McLemore said.
On offense, the Crush pulled through with some of their best performances yet this year, with Trent Reddick and Dixon leading the team at the plate, followed by Cooper McLemore, Carson Dyer and Patrick McDonel.
“This is the best batting, as far as hitting the ball well,” McLemore said. “Trent and Taylor led hitting, but Cooper, Carson and Patrick all three had some of their better hitting games throughout this weekend.”
Off the field, the Crush leaned on the strong parent support to take care of everything behind-the-scenes that led the team to a World Series title.
“In travel ball, parents sometimes are more important than the actual players themselves,” McLemore said. “It takes special people and special parents that go that extra mile to make sure their kids get that chance. This is the best group of parents a coach could ask for.”
After five-straight days of baseball and winning the USSSA World Series, McLemore admits the accomplishment may take some time to set in for everyone involved.
“We had team chemistry going and I didn’t want to separate any one person, because all of them did excellent,” he said. “It’s the small things that each kid brought that brought us up.”