By Thomas Grant Jr.
The summer of Irmo Little League Baseball continues Monday in Taylor, Mich.
A week after the senior team reached the Senior League World Series in Easley, the junior program now gets its turn. The team won the Southeast Region in Bridgewater, Va., beating out seven state championship teams with a 4-1 record.
They will open the 12-team modified double elimination tournament at 8 p.m. Monday against the winner of Sunday’s matchup between Illinois and New Jersey.
Head coach Pat Gravelle said the 12-player All-Star team is homegrown with talent from Lexington/Richland School District schools Chapin, Dutch Fork and Irmo.
He and assistant coaches T.C. Phillips and John McElroy have developed many of the players since five and six years old in Irmo Little League. Having competed against each other during the regular season has created a sense of camaraderie and trust among the All-Stars.
First baseman Wayland Grillot of Irmo, left fielder Charlie Todd and catcher Daulton Gravelle, the head coach’s son, have led by example, according to the elder Gravelle. He also praised the “gutsy” pitching of Cooper Derrick of Chapin and Jackson Phipps of Dutch Fork.
The juniors hope to avoid the same fate as the seniors. They lost their two games at the World Series in a heartbreaking walk-off fashion.
To the players’ credit, Gravelle said they have reached out to the juniors to give them advice and support and what to expect in the environment they’re entering in Taylor.
All games will be streamed on ESPN+. Gravelle is telling his team to not get caught up in the moment and to stay confident and grounded in the moment.
A win sends Team Southeast to the next round Thursday, while a loss means an elimination game Tuesday.
“We each just gotta fight hard to win,” Josh Rector of Chapin said. “There’s gonna be some good teams. We gotta play like we did at regionals and hope for the best.”
(Photo | Rob Alor) The Irmo Little League Junior team at the opening ceremonies for the World Series which starts Monday.