SENECA — One big inning led to the first loss in more than a month, and now the Beaufort all-stars have no margin for error in their quest for a Dixie Boys World Series title.
Alabama rallied for four runs in the sixth to break open a tie game and win 8-3 on Sunday at Shaver Recreation Complex, handing Beaufort its first loss of the tournament and snapping its 10-game win streak dating back to July 1 in the district tournament.
"We faltered a little bit tonight, for the first time in about 10 games," Beaufort manager Mike Smith said. "But I told the guys we lost a game in district and came back to win district, so why can't we do the same thing? We can at least win a few more games and see what happens."
Beaufort will have to win twice today to keep that dream alive, starting with a 10 a.m. game against Georgia, which lost 5-4 to Texas on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Alabama showed the same resolve that led this same squad — minus three players — to the Junior Dixie Boys World Series title last summer in Bluffton.
Despite falling behind in the third, Alabama scored four times on only one hit in the sixth to regain the lead, getting a two-run single from Josh Brooks to key the outburst.
And Alabama's solid pitching made the margin hold up.
After allowing back-to-back doubles to the first two hitters he faced, Tatum Dean settled into a nice groove and threw four strong innings of relief for the win, striking out five along the way. Hayden White pitched a scoreless seventh to finish it off.
"You’ve got to give them credit, because they did what they had to do," Smith said. “They came in and pitched well, they played good defense and they were opportunistic at the right time to score those runs on little or nothing.”
Like it did in Saturday's win over Arkansas, Beaufort bounced back from an early deficit. Will Olsey put Alabama on top 2-0 with a home run to right field in the first, but Beaufort wasted no time in getting those two runs back.
Beaufort jumped all over Olsey for two runs on four hits in the first, and it took a 3-2 lead on Luke Smith's RBI double off Dean in the second.
But Beaufort's pitching, which has been steady all summer, issuing eight walks and hitting two batters. Four of those walks came in the sixth, which proved to be the difference.
Beaufort can take solace in the fact it played with the defending champs for most of the night, though. Alabama manager Danny White told his counterpart, Smith, that he expects to see the South Carolina champs again before the tournament is finished, and the boys from Beaufort came out of Sunday’s game liking their chances in a rematch.
"We had the lead for five solid innings, and we had our best pitcher coming in, so we know we can play with them," Joel Fickes said. "If we can get our bats together and get more than three runs, we can do it."