The Goose Creek “O”Zone all-stars encountered some adversity before their district tournament when one of their top players had to have hip surgery.
Infielder/pitcher Jaxson Ranly is still in a wheelchair but had no problem hoisting the team’s championship trophy on Thursday night at Felkel Field. Ranly was the first to touch it — and held it high — after Goose Creek’s 8-5 victory over Mount Pleasant wrapped up a perfect run in the Dixie Youth District 7 tournament.
“I’ve got a lot of good things to say about all these kids,” Goose Creek coach Jason Smith said. “They overcame adversity right from the beginning. Jaxson was one of our key ingredients for what we’re trying to accomplish. He went down with injury but we regrouped and all the kids rallied together.”
Smith’s team was 3-0, blasting Moncks Corner and St. Andrews by mercy rule in its first two games June 24 and 25. Goose Creek received a bye on Wednesday and got some tough resistance from Mount Pleasant before clinching the crown.
“We had some other kids step up this week,” Smith said. “We tell them just keep doing what you do, keep grinding and swinging the bats, and good things will happen. That’s kind of how it went down.”
Goose Creek advances to the 12-team “O”Zone state tournament, which begins July 12 in Bluffton. The winner moves on to the “O”Zone World Series in Ruston, La., from Aug. 2-8.
Smith is confident his team can make a run at the state title if they keep playing hard for Jaxson and polish up some things in the next two weeks.
Goose Creek opens play at state against Edgefield County, the District 3 winner, at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 13.
“I fully expect we can be state champions,” said Smith, who is assisted by Nic Ranly and Lynn McDowell. “I’m looking forward to playing some ball in Louisiana.”
In Thursday’s championship, Goose Creek starting pitcher Jacob Brookshire threw 5.1 innings and struck out four batters to earn the win on the bump. He gave way to reliever Andrew Vareltzis, who recorded the last two outs to garner the save.
Brookshire had a 5-1 lead after two innings but Mount Pleasant rallied to tie it 5-5 in the top of the fourth inning.
Goose Creek retook the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fourth and tacked on an insurance run in the fifth.
Earlier in the tournament, Brookshire threw a four-inning no-hitter, striking out eight batters, in the opener against Moncks Corner.
In the win over St. Andrews, JJ Smith tossed a complete game and struck out two batters.
“We’re going to be leaning on those two,” Smith said. “I told the boys the other day Jaxson is out. That hurts us but we’ve got to stay together as a team. We’ve got about six other kids on this team who can pitch and we have confidence in.”
More team members Smith Harkins, Kyle McDowell, Rowdy Langdon, Gavin Turko, Grayson Hyman, DJ Brown, Ryan Richardson, David Sanders and Ethan Wachtel.
“O” Zone is similar to Dixie Majors but base paths are 10 feet longer and the mound four feet further back.