When the Hilton Head Dixie Boys baseball team takes the field in Bossier City, La., on Saturday, the players will do so with the past on their minds.
These District 1 and South Carolina state champions will enter play knowing that they have the talent to win it all, and the experience to realize that dream.
After all, most of the players who make up coach Bill Keen's squad were members of last year's second-place squad. They also remember what it was like to drop the first game of the Dixie Baseball World Series, something Keen hopes will not repeat itself against the North Carolina squad on Saturday.
"I don't want to jinx myself, but I think the fact that they were there last year, when I look back at how we performed in the first game, we were the better team in my mind," Keen said. "We just didn't play well."
Keen said he felt like the players were a little in awe of their surroundings and weren't able to perform at their best. This time around, however, the team is set to make more of an impact, starting with getting off on the right foot.
"I think they're going to perform much better," Keen said, adding that at practice his players have been relaxed and in a good frame of mind. "They want to go up and have a much better result, that I already know. I guess they have a bad taste in their mouth for how they performed last year."
If Hilton Head's performance in the two preceding tournaments in the buildup to this weekend is any indication, they may be one of the favorites. Hilton Head stormed through district play and mostly cruised to the state championship -- although they needed a rally to avoid a winner-take-all championship game.
The goal at the World Series? More of the same.
"Fundamental baseball, put the ball in play," Keen said, noting that his team struck out six times looking in their last game. "You can't do that. Swing the bat. Whatever happens, happens."
Keen said everyone is looking forward to the experience of a big tournament, and he is confident they'll be able to put on a show.
"It's one of the last times they'll be doing something like this," Keen said. "How many chances do you get to go to a World Series?"
Dixie Boys World Series
Aug. 2-6, Tinsley Athletic Complex, Bossier City, La.
Hilton Head vs. North Carolina, 1 p.m.
Tenneessee vs. Virginia, 1 p.m.
Louisiana vs. Florida, 4 p.m.
Mississippi vs. Georgia, 4 p.m.
Alabama vs. Arkansas, 7 p.m.
Texas vs. Bossier City, La., 7 p.m.
Hilton Head Dixie Boys
Players: Nathaniel Anderson, Eric Ashdown, Cameron Bent, John Blackshire, Cody Brigham, John Burke, Dargan Cherry, Michael Graupner, Jacob Hussain, Collin Kaiser, Boyce Koebler, Alexander Morse, Jameson Rice
Manager: Bill Keen
Assistant coaches: Mike Cherry, Bryant Brigham