By T.J. Lundeen


NORTH AUGUSTA — Bill Keen hadn’t seen his team struggle at the plate before Thursday’s game.

The manager of the Hilton Head’s team in the Dixie Boys 14 Year Old State Championship held at Riverview Park, Keen had to wait until the bottom of the seventh inning for his team to come alive with five runs to take the title over Mullins by a score of 9-8.

“We’ve been together for two or three years now, since they were 12 years old,” he said. “They know what I expect of them and we (the coaches) know what to expect from them. They work hard, this wasn’t an aberration, and these kinds of things will happen for them.”

The bottom of the seventh inning began with Hilton Head trailing Mullins 8-4. Justin Rogers went 3-for-4 with three runs and DJ Atkinson was also 3-for-4 with a run for Mullins, helping to build the lead.

But things changed in the seventh when Keen’s 3-4-5 hitters all reached base. Dakotah Brigham working a walk, Boyce Kobleur doubling and Michael Graupner (2-for-4) hitting a single. After two strikeouts, a single and two walks, John Burke knocked a single to bring home the winning run.

“The one thing I was concerned about was what would happen when we’re down a couple of runs, because we’d been beating everyone so handily,” Keen said. “I had confidence that they would come back, although it was weaning because it was so late in the seventh inning. They found a way, they always seem to find a way to put the ball in play.”

Kobleur, who hit .800 in district, knocked in the first run of the seventh inning with his double.

“We just had to play as a team, we didn’t do that at the beginning but by the end we came together to get this win,” Hilton Head’s left fielder said, finishing 3-for-4 with two runs. “We’ve all been playing together for so long, so we know how all of us play and can pick each other up.”

A fan of LSU baseball, Kobleur’s excited to play in the Dixie Boys World Series in Louisiana. It will take place in Bossier City, Louisiana from Aug. 2-6.

“I’m excited, I’ve never been to Louisiana and I’m looking forward to how that’s going to go,” he said. “It’s awesome, I hope we can do a lot better than we did last year.”

Last year, the Hilton Head contingent won the Junior Dixie Boys championship but had a poor showing in the World Series.

“I know last year we won the (Junior Dixie Boys) tournament and went up to the World Series and were two and out,” Keen said. “I’ll be shocked if that happens again. They are a much better team and it’s going to be fun to go out and see what they do.”

T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for the North Augusta Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj.