The Union County Babe Ruth under-15 team has become a three-time western North Carolina state champion and came within one win of advancing to the Little League World Series last month.
The core of the team has been together for years.
In 2009, the team finished third in the Southeastern Regional in Pulaski, Tenn., and in 2010 it finished fourth in Demopolis, Ala., coming out of the loser's bracket that season.
Austin Harding, Hunter Jones, Carlos Sandoval, Cory Sikes and Tucker Smith have been with the team since the beginning of the run, and in 2010 they were joined by Jacob DeSimone, Danny Edwards, Hunter Edwards and Triston Glover.
Those players were joined this year by Josh Evans, David Nash and Seth Rushing, who helped lead the team to within one game of a trip to the 2011 Little League World Series in Jamestown, N.Y.
To qualify, Union County first had to win the Western N.C. state tournament in Yadkinville, where the team dominated, winning all six games by a combined score of 53-6.
At the Babe Ruth Southeastern Regional in Sarasota, Fla., the team played seven games and had to face eventual champion and hometown favorite Sarasota, which handed the team its only two losses out of those seven contests.
The tournament included 12 teams from Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and the Bahamas. Union County finished 5-2, scoring 76 runs in its seven games.
In the semifinals, Union County defeated Lakewood 12-8 in a three-hour battle. The hard-fought win and having to play right after that took a toll on the players, and Sarasota proved too much.
"Although it was disappointing to not get to the number one spot and advance to the World Series, it is quite an accomplishment," said team mother Marlene Jones.
"Union County's baseball program will benefit from the tough tournaments and the experiences each of these players participated in and witnessed."