LaFayette Rangers

The 11-year-old Dizzy Dean state champion LaFayette Rangers include (front row, from left) Levi Hopkins, Hagen English, River Clark, Austin Dearing and T.J. Crowe. On the back row are Hayden "Gus" Reynolds, Brennon Beavers, Andrew Huggins, Luke Hopkins and Braden Bartlett. The Rangers are coached by Brad Huggins, David English, Adam Ford and Robby Hopkins (not pictured).

After five years of hard work, the LaFayette Rangers finally scaled the top of the mountain on Sunday as they captured the 2020 Georgia Dizzy Dean State baseball championship in the 11-year-old division.

The Rangers, who have been together since the age of seven, went 2-0 in pool play over the weekend. They picked up a 6-0 forfeit victory over AYBA from Alpharetta before thumping Acworth, 14-2.

In Sunday's single bracket elimination play, the Rangers received another forfeit victory over AYBA and they would face Acworth again in the finals after Acworth dispatched Hopewell in the semifinals.

LaFayette put up three runs in the bottom of the first inning, but led by just a single run, 5-4, in the top of the fifth inning. Acworth would get a two-out single and a stolen base to put the tying run on at second, but shortstop T.J. Crowe reached up to glove a hard-hit liner and get the Rangers out of the inning unscathed.

The Rangers would add two more insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. Andrew Huggins opened the frame with a hard-hit single to left-center and a balk moved Huggins to second base.

Crowe would draw a walk and broke for second base as some heads-up base-running by Huggins allowed him to steal third. Acworth tried to throw Crowe out at second, but the LaFayette shortstop was able to get in under the tag, which allowed Huggins to scamper home and swipe the plate without a throw.

Brennon Beavers would keep the inning going by beating out an infield single that moved Crowe to third and he would trot home moments later on Acworth's second balk of the inning.

LaFayette wasted no time in finishing things off in the top of the sixth. Braden Bartlett made a nice play to stick with the ball after a tough hop for an unassisted putout at first. Relief pitcher Luke Hopkins would get the second batter of the inning looking and Crowe would throw across the diamond to Bartlett to retire the side and seal the state championship.

Hopkins picked up the save, while Austin Dearing got the win on the hill after pitching the first five innings of the title game.

Two other teams were not as fortunate in state championship finals. The Chickamauga Cubs knocked off Mount Paran in a semifinal game on Sunday before falling to the Eastside Thunder in the 8-year-old finals.

Then in the 10-year-old division, Rock Spring, who went 1-1 in pool play, defeated Canton on Sunday morning, but would lose to AYBA in the finals later in the day.

The Catoosa Tribe would advance further in the 6-year-old division than any other local team in the field. The Tribe, who went 1-1 in pool play, defeated the Fort Oglethorpe Braves in a quarterfinal game on Sunday morning. However, they fell one game short of the finals as they lost to West Cobb on Sunday afternoon.

Rossville had teams in the 6 and 8-year-old divisions, while Chickamauga also had an entry in the 10-year-old division. No local teams participated in the 12-year-old tournament.

All five tournaments were held simultaneously at the Rossville Recreation Center.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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