Paul Ludewig doesn't know a lot about his baseball team's first opponent this weekend -- knowledge is scarce once competition reaches the state level.
But Ludewig, coach of the Hilton Head Island Dixie Boys team that won District 8 last week, isn't letting his group think Lexington is any better.
Hilton Head begins play Saturday at the state tournament in Aiken. At stake is a spot in the Dixie Boys World Series, which will be held in Beaufort starting at the end of the month.
"They're prepared," Ludewig said. "I've been mentally preparing them as well, letting them know they are a great team, that they have a shot as good as anybody else does."
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Two other area district champions begin play Saturday for a state title. Beaufort's all-stars, winners of Dixie Junior Boys District 8, also play in Aiken and will face Lancaster at 2 p.m. Hilton Head's Dixie Youth AA district champions travel to Dillon to compete for the machine-pitch state championship.
The Hilton Head Dixie Boys squad received a boost when it added David Knudsen, a pitcher who missed the district tournament while playing American Legion ball. Ludewig feels he has three solid starters in Knudsen, Tommy Cooper and Matt Clark, and said the team is also solid in relief.
"We're expecting some good competition," Cooper said after Hilton Head won district. "We just have to go out there and play like we did here, and hopefully get what we want."
Beaufort Junior Boys manager John Mahan said his team's pitching depth should provide an advantage. Six of his players have the ability to pitch, Mahan said, and that depth could prove critical as the team advances to later rounds.
Arm fatigue has been at the forefront of Mahan's concerns during the all-star season. He said he has rested pitchers as much as possible to help them recover from middle school and travel ball seasons. He expects his staff to be near full strength as the team moves forward in the bracket.
Mahan wasn't pleased with how his 13-and-under squad hit the ball during its district championship run. During practices, players have worked on identifying and hitting the curveball. During some drills, Mahan had his players watch without bats to study the release and movement of the pitch.
"We're really trying to focus on getting the ball in play," Mahan said.
Hilton Head's Dixie Youth AA squad, champions of the District 8 machine-pitch tournament, will face Lancaster at 10:15 a.m. Saturday. The 8-and-under team added plenty of tournament experience during the summer, going undefeated in two tournaments outside of Dixie play before finishing 5-0 in the district tournament to advance.
DIXIE BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
Who: Ages 14 and under
When: July 16-22
Hilton Head roster: David Knudsen, Matt Clark, Ryan Barrett, Joseph Ludewig, Tommy Cooper, Caleb Workman, Alec Ambrosic, Andy Lively, Sam Page, Hunter Brigham, Matt Van Grouw, Hobie Jackson, coach Paul Ludewig, coach Bryant Brigham, coach Chuck Workman
First game: vs. Lexington, 2 p.m. Saturday
Note: Tournament winner advances to the Dixie Boys World Series in Beaufort
DIXIE JUNIOR BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
Who: Ages 13 and under
When: July 16-22
Beaufort roster: Brady Cormier, Porter Mahan, John Sturgess, Jason Senn, Tyler Rentz, Conner Gruel, Aaron Brantley, Ryan Lanning, Thomas Roddey, Henry Schubert, Evan Humphries, manager John Mahan, coach Keith Schubert, coach John Mark Mahan
First game: vs. Lancaster, 2 p.m. Saturday
DIXIE YOUTH AA STATE TOURNAMENT
Who: Ages 6-8 (machine pitch)
When: July16-July 19
Hilton Head roster: Jace Blackshear, Maxwell Boyer, Will Brogan, Cole DeMarzo, Jacob Eddy, Cooper George, Harrison Green, Ethan Hussong, Daniel Keber, Nikolaus Laing, Will McCracken, Kyle Sullivan, manager Dobbie Green, coach Brian Laing, coach Mark Boyer, coach Maria McCracken
First game: vs. Lancaster, 10:15 a.m. Saturday