Athletes of the Week: Boys of summer make memories

mballstars-powMammy’s Kitchen Athletes of the Week Will Jackson, Kellan McDowell and their Myrtle Beach All-Star teammates didn’t get much free time over the summer break.

But after representing the state of South Carolina in the Dixie Youth Majors World Series, they definitely had the best “What I did during my summer vacation” essays when they returned to school last week.

The Myrtle Beach All-Stars won the region championship in Green Sea, claimed the state championship in Union, and advanced to the World Series in Laurel, Mississippi, earlier this month before falling just short in the semifinals. They returned home to a heroes’ welcome in Myrtle Beach with only one week before they had to trade in their bats and gloves for books and pencils.

“I had the best summer ever,” said Jackson, who immediately started playing football and swimming upon his return. “We talked about this last year after our 11-year-old season. We said, ‘Next year lets win the state and go to the World Series.’ So it was something we were looking forward to all year and we finally got to do it.”

McDowell joined the team last season, but the core group has been playing together or against one another since their T-Ball days. McDowell had some key hits to help the Myrtle Beach All-Stars win the state championship, driving in the winning run in a 1-0 victory in the state opener, while Jackson threw a complete game two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in beating host Union.

“This is my second year on the team but we have a lot of good players and everybody plays together and gets along good,” said McDowell, who also traded in his batting helmet for a football helmet shortly after returning home. “It was a fun way to end the summer.”

Jackson led the team to the state crown from the mound, pitching a combined 15 innings while allowing only four runs and striking out 28 batters to only only one walk. He also played well at shortstop and with the bat, but he shares the credit with his teammates for making him look good on the mound.

“Pitching is easy when you have a great defense behind you and teammates that can swing the bats,” he said. “It seemed like every game someone made a big play.”

That includes the Myrtle Beach community, which helped the team raise nearly $20,000 to pay for travel expenses to the state tournament and World Series. The city chipped and honored the team at a recent council meeting, and former major leaguer Reggie Sanders spearheaded a fundraising drive for the team. The “Pepper” Geddings Recreation Center has enshrined the team’s summer in a trophy case as the first squad to represent South Carolina in the World Series in nearly 60 years.

“We can’t say enough for how the city and local businesses and individuals stepped up to help out,” said assistant coach Billy Jackson. “With all the travel, hotel rooms, food and other expenses, we couldn’t have done it without the help of the community.”

A solid team effort, both on and off the diamond.

Photo by Terry Massey

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