Following their title run in the Little League District 1 tournament the week before, the team was back on the ball field again last week to play in the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association District 5 tournament in Cedartown.
And just as they had done earlier in the month, the 7-8-year-old all-stars hoisted another championship trophy at the end of the week after hurdling over some tough obstacles.
After being handed their first loss in the double elimination tournament by the Cedartown Vipers last Wednesday, Rockmart’s 7-8-year-olds recovered by defeating Summerville later that evening.
The win guaranteed them a spot in the GRPA 7-8-year-old state tournament and put them in the championship against the Vipers, whom they would have to beat twice in order to win the tournament.
Rockmart set out to do just that last Thursday at Cedartown’s Bert Wood Youth and Athletic Complex and, with the same determination they had displayed over the previous two weeks, beat the Vipers 7-4 and 5-2 to win the title.
“That was a little rough,” Harpe said following his team’s back-to-back wins.
After playing four games in two days, Rockmart’s 7-8-year-old “A” team had won a district title for the second week in a row after a setback.
The team had won the 7-8-year-old Little District after suffering their first loss of the event to Cartersville.
“Yesterday was kind of like that Cartersville game,” Harpe said. “We acted like we couldn’t be beat and the same thing happened where we made a string of errors and we gave it to them.”
But despite the odds being against them, Harpe recalled what he told his players the week before when they faced a do-or-die scenario.
“We don’t have to do anything special,” Harpe said. “Just play like we’re supposed to play and it will happen. And I guess they believed that for these two games.”
Harpe looked over at the Rockmart players taking pictures with the championship trophy and laughed.
“It’s hard to believe 8-year-olds listen, but they do.”
Rockmart took action quickly as they led off the first game with a four-run, two-out rally to start.
RBI singles from Lane Harpe, Alex Britt, Caedyn Robinson and Karson Brumbelow set the pace for the team.
“I was a little worried because I really love having home team (advantage), the last at bat,” coach Harpe said. “But I told them that when we got visitors that we hit first and that means we score first.”
Rockmart would add two more in the third and another run in the fourth to build up a 7-1 lead which they would not relinquish.
The Vipers were subjected to the Rockmart 7-8-year-olds stellar defense throughout both games.
Britt, Cole Deems and Lane Harpe pulled off a 4-3-2 double play in the first inning while Andruw Morris, Bryce Brown and Britt completed a 1-5-4 double play in the fifth.
Dalvin Millhollan made a diving catch for the first out in the bottom of the sixth for Rockmart while a groundout to first was followed by three singles from Cedartown.
But a routine 6-4 putout in the next at-bat sealed the win and set up the decisive second game.
Rockmart did not storm out of the gate in the nightcap of the doubleheader as it had done earlier but a seemingly more relaxed team emerged to take a quick victory.
After the Vipers scored in the bottom of the second, Rockmart’s infield got the next three batters out.
Then at the plate, the 7-8-year-old “A” team was able to post three runs in the third, highlighted by Morris’ two-RBI triple and a RBI single from Ricky Floyd.
RBI singles from Millhollan and Morris added to Rockmart’s lead in the fourth and Rockmart’s defense held out once again, allowing Cedartown to score just once more before the end of the game.
Cedartown loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth but was unable to push across more than one run and two leadoff singles in the sixth were followed by three straight outs.
“Five runs against that team ... that’s not enough against them,” Harpe said. “(Cedartown) hit pretty well tonight but we made the plays when it counted. They hit it at us and we caught it. It was as simple as that.”
A majority of the players on Rockmart’s team also won both the Little League and GRPA district tournaments last year.
“We came out here a little bit looser this time then we have been,” Harpe said. “They know a lot players on the other team so they get a little uptight when they play them and they seem undefeatable to them so they get a little scared.
“In this game they came out with nothing to lose.”
With the top two teams in district go to state, Rockmart’s ticket was already punched.
But Harpe made sure his players realized the importance and the pride that goes along with a championship trophy.
“I told them it’s a lot sweeter to go to state in first place than in second place,” Harpe said.
The team planned to have a fundraiser night at Hometown Pizza and Grill on Tuesday, June 28. Ten percent of all sales from 5-10 p.m. at the Elm Street restaurant will go towards helping send the team to the state tournament.