The dog pile was in the books and the photo opportunities were under way for the Sumter Dixie Junior Boys baseball team. And the team member who didn't have at least a speck of dirt on his uniform was at the center of every photograph.
Sabora -- a Beta fish modeled after the rallying cry of the University of South Carolina baseball team -- swam front and center during the team's photo session Wednesday night following Sumter's 16-0 dismantling of Lancaster in the Dixie Junior Boys state championship game at Oscar J. Frazier Park in Bluffton.
"When you're in the hotel room for hours on hours, you try to find some things to do but you've got to temper it," coach Pat Sears said. "You can't go lay out on the beach all day. You have to find something to do.
"One of the kids pops up and says, 'We need a fish.' "
The fish will be sticking around, as Sumter now advances to the Junior Boys World Series in Christiansburg, Va. The latest victory marks the team's fourth consecutive junior boys state title, Sears said.
"We're really elated for this group," he added.
The team may credit their fish for this latest state title, but it was pitcher Ryan Touchberry who did the heavy lifting. The right-hander silenced Lancaster in his five innings of work, allowing just a pair of singles while striking out eight. He retired eight consecutive batters at one point and allowed just two runners past first base.
"He's been in that situation a lot," Sears said. "He's somewhat of a free spirit. He doesn't let a whole lot (bother him). He could go 3-0 on a count and it just doesn't bother him. That's just his personality."
Touchberry's strong performance didn't seem overly necessary, however, as his offense cruised past Lancaster early and never let up. Catcher Josh Whitley supplied the power with a two-run single in the third and a three-run homer in the fifth, while right fielder Jordan Holladay went 3 for 3 with two doubles and three RBIs.
"When we're swinging the bat, it really doesn't matter who's throwing," Sears said.
It didn't take very long for Sears to come around to his team's fishy mascot, which is named after one of the player's girlfriends.
"Why they named it after her, I don't know," he said. "Young love."
But Sears doesn't care very much about its origins. He's got bigger things to worry about.
Like the World Series.