Host team Headland last week captured the Dixie Youth Majors baseball state tournament and a berth in the Dixie World Series.
Brooke Hallman, a left-handed pitcher for Abbeville’s all-stars, also left her mark on the record books in that same tourney. The 12-year-old set three state tournament records and tied one with an outstanding performance against Montgomery Southern.
Hallman threw a no-hitter, becoming the first girl to throw a no-no in the Dixie Youth Majors (ages 11-12) state tourney. She also was the first girl to throw a complete game. But her dominance was record-setting, too. Her 13 strikeouts in that game set a new standard for a girl.
In the process, she became the second girl ever and the first to earn a victory at the state tournament since 1967 – 52 years.
She was unaware of all of that history as it was unfolding.
“I didn’t know that it was a no-hitter,” Hallman said on Wednesday. “I wasn’t even worried about that. I was just worried about winning the game, the next batter, the next inning, all that stuff.”
The 13 strikeouts indicated only part of her dominance. She also didn’t walk a batter and had tremendous command of the strike zone. In the six-inning game she faced 25 batters and had 19 first-pitch strikes. Of her 87 total pitches, 61 were strikes.
Of course, she needed to be that good. Abbeville won the game 4-3 as Montgomery Southern took advantage of some errors.
In fact, she faced several alarming factors in the sixth and final inning. The tying run was on third base with two outs. She was facing her final batter because during that at-bat she threw her 85th pitch – the limit in Dixie Youth Majors. Once she hit 85, she was allowed to complete the at-bat before leaving the game.
She fell behind 3-1 for one of the few times in the game – and said she was almost “freaking out” after hearing an announcement.
“I heard the guy in the booth say that’s the pitcher’s count,” Hallman said when she threw ball three to the final batter. “He thought that was ball four, but it wasn’t. I was like, ‘Oh, no. Please don’t take me out.’”
The proper count verified, she ended the game and her gem of a performance with two quick strikes and that 13th strikeout.
Bedlam. As the team celebrated its one-run victory, Brooke’s dad, Justice Hallman, told head coach Brian Reynolds about the no-hitter. Reynolds then informed his pitcher.
“I was like, ‘I did?’” she said. “I didn’t even know it was to win the game. I was just pitching.”
The next day, she was presented a glass-encased, signed game ball from state tournament officials recognizing her accomplishment. Her parents, Justice and Nicole Hallman, were beaming.
Brooke, who said her best pitch is her curve, chose baseball over softball this season for a couple reasons. She has been practicing with boys most of her life. Her brother, also named Justice, is 14. She’s been at his practices since he’s played organized ball.
“We tried softball one year and they weren’t competitive,” her father said. “She wanted to be in something more competitive. So she played against the boys. She was always at her brother’s practices. She was practicing with the team already. It naturally went right into it.”
Plus, it was more fun, she said.
“I prefer baseball,” she said.
Brooke played on one of two Abbeville teams this spring. She was a pitcher on the Maroon team. There was also a Black team. They formed an all-star team for tournament play and played other towns in this district like Cottonwood, Ozark and, yes, Headland.
As the state host team, Headland had an automatic berth in the state tourney. As the runner-up team – there was no district tournament, Justice Hallman said – Abbeville earned the district’s invitation to the state tournament.
Abbeville’s run there ended when Montgomery Metro eliminated them from the tournament.
Five years ago this summer, Mo’ne Davis led the Taney Dragons of Philadelphia to the Little League World Series and earned two victories, including a shutout.
Hallman moves up in age group next year and very likely won’t be competing against the guys.
“I think I’m going to move to softball and play school ball,” she said.
She has been a student at Abbeville Christian, but expects to start seventh grade at Northside Methodist later this summer.
“I’m going to try to play at least junior varsity in softball,” she said.
She added that basketball probably is her best and favorite sport.
If this was it for baseball, she certainly finished in style.
“It was fun. I couldn’t have asked for a better season for me, personally,” she said.