The Dixie Junior Boys (13 year olds) World Series baseball tournament kicks off today at South Commons with 12 teams from 11 states vying for the title.
However, the West Georgia team will have a small advantage of the rest of the field. Namely, they're the host team and will get the benefit of sleeping in their own beds instead of having to play away from home.
"Being able to play in a tournament at this level in our hometown means a lot," West Georgia coach Mike Johnson said. "It's a big deal for Columbus to be hosting a tournament like this. I was talking to somebody about it and said to them that we owe it to the city of Columbus to put a good product on the field."
West Georgia opens its tournament, which is being played at South Commons, at 7 p.m. against Hilton Head, S.C. A victory would put West Georgia into a 7 p.m. game Sunday night against the winner of a game between Enterprise, Ala., and Center, Texas. A loss sends West Georgia into an elimination game against the loser of Enterprise and Center at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Johnson said his team is well-prepared for the tournament, with several of the West Georgia players having recently won another organization's World Series tournament in Panama City, Fla.
"The past couple of weeks, it's starting to amp up and the excitement is starting to build," Johnson said. "Several guys on this team just got back from a World Series we won in Panama City. We were high and now we're getting back to business. We had a good practice (Tuesday) and I think we're starting to peak. I think they're going to be ready to play."
Like most all-star squads, the West Georgia team boasts a deep pitching staff -- a must in a tournament as big as the World Series -- but Johnson said his team's defense and versatility are also strong points.
"I think that we're really deep in pitching and very solid defensively and overall, we're just a team of decentness," Johnson said. "I've been doing this for 20 years and this is probably the deepest pitching staff I've had.
"We also have a bunch of players who are interchangeable. Almost all we have to do is decide who the starting pitcher is and from there, we can just write names down for the rest of the positions. That says a lot about how talented this team is."
Johnson said a victory tonight is a big first step toward doing well.
"First and foremost, the biggest thing is to stay in the winners bracket," said Johnson. "That way we'll not have to go as deep in our pitching staff as the other teams. I think our pitching and defense will keep us in games. Whether or not we can hit opposing pitchers will dictate how far and how deep go into this tournament. I don't think there's going to be a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 games."
The West Georgia roster includes Owen Lakeman, Liam Carbone, Brian Trepanier, Coleman Strothers, Kaleb Podger, Bubba Pearson, Devin Perez, Cameron Udy, Jordan Manidusan, Jonathan Manidusan and Ayden Williams.