For the second straight year in a row, the Prince George 11-12 major’s baseball team won a state championship title. The team clinched a spot in the double-elimination Dixie Youth World Series, and will begin against Georgia on August 6. Last year in the 2015 World Series, the team traveled to South Carolina and won third place.
“We pretty much have the same path as we had last year,” Athletic Coordinator Rob Eley. “If we win we get a day break and the worst we’re guaranteed is third place again.”
Prince George will represent Virginia in the World Series against 11 other teams. Participants in the tournament include Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Laurel and Georgia.
“There’s a core of these kids that are back from last year,” Director of Parks and Recreation Keith Rotzoll said. “There’s a few of them that aged out and went to the next division but this group has been very successful and played together very well.”
The team is coached by Manager Mike Hanzlik. Players on the team include Sterling Austin, Marcus Bradshaw, Jude Capps, Ryan Carden, Colton Dobbs, Brody Early, Grayson Hanzlik, Hunter Jacobs, Gage Landry, Johnathan Phillips, Stone Sober and Jack Wilson. During the regular season, the team finished in second place in their district behind Colonial Heights. Both teams reached the state tournament, where, despite one loss, Prince George claimed a second state title.
In the state tournament the 8-2 loss to Dinwiddie left both teams in a three way tie with Colonial Heights. A draw out of a hat gave Coach Hanzlik the bye, and Colonial Heights defeated Dinwiddie 10-2. In the game for the World Series, Prince George defeated Colonial Heights 10-0 to earn their spot in the World Series.
“I think the major difference between this year’s team and last year’s team is just the power,” Eley said. “I think last year’s team was based upon the home run wall and being able to score a lot of runs. This team has had to manufacture runs and they’re not the biggest team to walk in the gate but they’ve worked hard and the coaches have put some time in after the district tournament because I don’t think they really were where they wanted to be.”
Prince George lost twice to Colonial Heights in the district tournament before their 10-0 state championship victory.
“The pitchers threw strikes and they played good defense,” Eley said. “They got some timely hitting from some kids at the bottom of the order and here they are, they’re going back to World Series as back-to-back state champions.”
One obstacle standing in between the team and shot at the World Series title is funding to be able to make the trip to Mississippi. Each child needs $1,000 for the trip, covering hotel, food and travel expenses, which totals to $12,000 total for the team. The team currently has a ‘gofundme’ page, and has raised approximately $2,000 so far.
“Everything is out on Facebook and Twitter,” Rotzoll said. “We’ve talked to numerous businesses and civic organizations so we’re getting some funds in, but we still need to get some more.”
The team’s first World Series match against Georgia will tip off on Saturday, August 6 at 8 p.m. A pep rally to support the team was also held on Tuesday evening.
“I think people are very proud of this group,” Rotzoll said. “Last year we had a lot of big donations. We had just gotten into the Dixie organization, the year before that was our first year. In your second year, to win states and go to the World Series was quite a feat.