MARIANNA — The Sebring All-Stars provided some early Fourth of July fireworks of their own by winning the Dixie Youth Machine Pitch state tournament on Wednesday on a sweltering day in the Panhandle.
The victory was extra sweet for the Sebring All-Stars, which posted an impressive 11-1 record in the event, as they avenged their only defeat of the tournament in the championship game with a hard-fought 10-5 win over Bushnell.
“We’re proud and very happy,” said Sebring coach William Sebring. “We brought home the gold I guess you could say. We stayed together as a team, the kids swung the bats and our defense was outstanding.
“We had 12 kids who could play different positions and that was important with the number of games we played over the last five days.”
As state champion, Sebring will represent the state of Florida in the Dixie Youth Machine Pitch World Series that runs from July 17-21 in Texarkana, Ark.
“I think we have a team that can compete for the title,” said Sebring. “There are some rule changes like no stealing and bunting at the World Series, but that’s good for us because we like to swing the bats.”
The team is going to do some fundraising to help defray the expenses for the trip to Arkansas.
“We’re going to have some events for fundraising to help pay for the trip,” Sebring said. “We’ll get back and get a couple of days of rest and then we’ll hit it hard for the next two weeks.”
Sebring defeated West Volusia by a score of 11-4 in Wednesday’s semifinals.
With three teams having one loss, a blind draw was used to decide which team got a bye and which two squads had to play an elimination game in the more than 100 degree heat index.
Sebring was fortunate by drawing the bye and Bushnell eliminated West Volusia to set up the deciding game against the boys in blue.
Bushnell was the home team and Sebring went to work in the top of the first inning as Clayton Evans and Chase Sevigny laced back-to-back singles.
Rhett Vaughn smacked an RBI double to score Evans, and Jayden Garrett plated Sevigny with a bunt for a 2-0 lead.
Bushnell answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame to tie the game at 2.
Sebring’s offense went back to work in the top of the third inning as Sevigny, George Sebring, Vaughn, and Garrett each hit doubles to take a commanding 6-2 lead.
Bushnell scored two runs in the bottom of the frame and one run in the bottom of the fifth inning to trim its deficit to 6-5.
In the top of the sixth inning, Sevigny led off with a single and George Sebring followed with an RBI double. Vaughn ripped a single to score Sebring, Garrett doubled and Brody Green hit a screamer for a two-run single to give Sebring a commanding 10-5 lead.
Only three outs from victory, the Sebring faithful cheered louder as each out was recorded. Bushnell’s first batter grounded out to second base, the next batter grounded out to shortstop and Bushnell’s last hope flew out to center field where Sevigny set himself under the ball and made the catch for the final out of the game.
The team rallied around Sevigny lifting him into the air, and the boys screamed and jumped up and down as the parents cheered.
Despite the 100 degree weather, moms and dads had goose bumps. Sebring was the Dixie Youth AA Machine Pitch state champion and they had most certainly earned it over the past five days.
The team and each of the boys were presented with a trophy. They will practice for two weeks before traveling to Arkansas for the Dixie Youth Machine Pitch World Series.
“We’re looking forward to representing our state at the World Series,” said Sebring. “We’ll get some rest, get back to practice and be ready to play when we get to the World Series.”