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There are no have-nots in this World Series

SENECA -- This is a story of the "haves" and the "haven'ts" -- no not the same old haves and have-nots you've heard about -- this is something different.

This is the Dixie Boys World Series, so there are no have-nots here. The 12 teams who made it this far have plenty -- they have strong pitchers, good hitters and great fielders.

But there are haven'ts, as in those teams who haven't been here before, who haven't played on a stage quite this large where the lights shine just a little brighter. And there is a tendency for those teams, no matter how hard they try to protect against it, to be a little uncomfortable in these situations.

Unfortunately for the Beaufort all-stars, they haven't been here before.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Beaufort outfielder and pitcher Joel Fickes. "You want to win and everything, but we're also just happy we got here. Some of us have been playing state ball for six or seven years and have never gotten here before."

That puts the Beaufort team in the minority, and seemingly at a disadvantage. Five of the teams in this year's Dixie Boys World Series were also present at last year's Junior Dixie Boys World Series in Bluffton, including the Alabama squad, which rolled through last summer's tournament undefeated to claim the title.

Those guys are haves.

So is the Arkansas team, Beaufort's first opponent at 4 p.m. today, though the Razorback contingent might fit somewhere in between the two categories. Several of this year's players were on World Series teams two and four years ago, but those teams have a combined 0-4 record in World Series play. So, yeah, they're experienced, but ...

"Experienced at losing," one Arkansas parent said with a laugh. "But we're looking to turn that around."

Despite this being their first trip to the big stage, the boys from Beaufort don't seem to be intimidated. Heck, one of their own played bully in Friday's home run derby, as Tony Nolan smacked nine shots over the 10-foot fences at Shaver Complex to win the power hitting competition.

And he's their leadoff hitter.

So the Beaufort team might not have experience on this level, but it isn't lacking for confidence, especially after a 6-0 run through the state tournament, including a win over the Lexington team that finished second in the World Series a year ago.

"One thing you've got to keep in mind is that these guys have been playing ball for most of their lives, and a lot of them have played in big games year after year," Beaufort manager Mike Smith said. "We're trying to tell them it's just another baseball game.

"Now, we understand it's the World Series, and we're trying to take all that in and enjoy every minute of it. But when we get out on the field and start play, we need to turn the switch on and get back to baseball."

After a night of fun and feasting -- on a steak dinner and batting practice fastballs -- it's time to flip that switch today. And after that first round of games is over, there are no more haven'ts, so surviving the first wave of jitters will be the key to making a deep run in the tournament.

"We'll be ready to play," Beaufort pitcher and infielder David Tilton said. "It's a great experience, and it's been fun, but hopefully we can win some games."

Naturally, the Beaufort players don't know much about their first opponent -- other than the fact Zac Anderson and Will Francis hit eight home runs apiece on Friday, making them Nolan's closest competitors.

"You can't underestimate them," Fickes said. "They made it this far, so they're going to be good."

In that sense, everyone playing this week is a have. The have-nots are at home.

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