After losing their first game and falling into the loser's bracket, the Heartland All-Stars battled back to win the rest of their games to capture the Dixie Majors (ages 19 and under) State Baseball Tournament on Aug. 17.
Now known as Team Florida, the All-Stars begin play today in the Dixie Majors World Series in North Charleston, S.C.
"We are excited to be representing our community as well as the state of Florida," said Team Florida coach Chad Wright. "This is a great group of kids who overcame a lot of adversity to win the Dixie Majors state championship for the second straight year.
"We have a lot of talent on this team, solid pitching and we're looking to improve on our fourth-place finish in last year's Dixie Majors World Series."
It wasn't an easy task to defend their state title as the Heartland All-Stars lost to rival Hernando by a score of 2-1 in their opening game.
The boys in red bounced back to blank Chipley, 4-0, and edged Hernando by a score of 4-3 in a rain-delayed game to reach the finals.
The Heartland All-Stars beat a talented Spring Hill squad by a score of 6-1 to win the state tournament and the automatic berth in the Dixie Majors World Series.
"We played some quality teams and saw some real good arms in the tournament," Wright said. "This is a great group of kids who play hard and do what we ask."
Team Florida opens play today against Team Tennessee in the double-elimination tournament.
"We don't know anything about Tennessee, but they don't know anything about us," Wright said. "This is a great facility we're at and I like our team and we're looking forward to representing our community and state to the best of our ability."
Wright, who is an assistant coach on the Avon Park High School baseball team, was a standout player for the Red Devils and made it to one Dixie World Series as player when he was 12 years old.
"It was a thrill to make it to the World Series as a player," Wright said. "We went to Virginia to play and we lost our first two games to get eliminated.
"It was a thrill then and it's exciting to go to the World series as a coach and it's something these players will always remember."
Team Florida has a nice blend of players with a solid pitching staff, a potent offense and the ability to play good defense which is a must against the quality competition they will face in the Dixie Majors World Series.
"We had a good week of practice and the guys are ready to get on the field," Wright said. "This is a great opportunity and we're looking to playing the way we're capable."
For the complete story and photos from Team Florida's games, be sure to read the Highlands Today sports section.