One of the host teams for the Georgia Recreation and Park Association Flea Division District 5 tournament, Rockmart’s “A” team produced late-inning rallies in its final two games at Dean Field, the latter of which came in the championship game to give the Yellow Jackets the title.
After Rockmart erased a 9-4 deficit to beat 2009 district champion Summerville 11-9 in the semifinals last Wednesday, it was saddled with a similar situation in the finals two days later.
Summerville advanced to the championship game from the losers’ bracket and was ready to take two from the Yellow Jackets in order to repeat.
But with Rockmart behind 9-3 with only two innings left in the six-inning contest the hometown team regained its composure and used good baserunning to post eight runs and win, 11-9, following a trio of groundouts in the bottom of the sixth.
“I had confidence in them,” said Rockmart “A” team manager Eddie Britt. “I felt good, and I told them that there was only going to be one game tonight.”
The team had won the Little League District 1 title in Cedartown the Saturday before, as did Rockmart’s “B” team.
“I was a little nervous at first when we started practicing, but these kids came together like a family,” Britt said. “I told them that they would be best friends this summer and it would take all summer to do it.”
Little League does not hold state tournaments for 7- and 8-year-olds, but GRPA, which the Rockmart Little League became associated with just this year, does hold state tournaments for the some of the youngest ballplayers.
The Rockmart 7- and 8-year-old “A” team will head all the way to Cordele from July 8-10 for the state tournament.
One member of the team provided a point of inspiration for both the players and the coaches.
Riley McBryde was admitted to the hospital last Wednesday morning and had emergency surgery to have his appendix removed and was not with the team for their first win over Summerville.
Britt traveled to Rome after the victory to give McBryde the game ball, and the team dedicated the game to him.
Two nights later, McBride rejoined the team in the dugout but did not play. He is expected to fully recover by the time the team plays in the state tournament.
“We appreciate all of the support the community has given us,” Britt said. “A lot of towns forget about the 7- and 8-year-olds.”
Evan Ratcliff went 4-for-4 with six RBIs for the Yellow Jackets in their first contest against Summerville and was a big part of Rockmart’s six-run fifth that propelled them past the Indians.
In the championship game, Summerville struck hard with five runs in the second inning and built a six-run lead after four.
But big hits from CJ Culver and Paine Culver brought the momentum back to the Jackets in the final two innings to set up their comeback.
“We had watched Summerville play and saw that they can’t handle a hard hit ground ball and that’s what we preached to the team,” Britt said. “This win was due to our whole team. If one of them doesn’t hit then we don’t win. It took everybody.”
Rockmart’s 7- and 8-year-old “B” team took a loss in its opening game of the tournament but rebounded with a 13-2 win over Cedartown’s “B” team last Tuesday.
After taking a 5-3 lead in the top of the fifth last Wednesday against Cedartown’s “A” team, the Jackets came up short as Cedartown scored four in the bottom of the frame and held Rockmart scoreless in the top of the sixth.
The loss ended the season for the Jackets’ “B” team put they had a Little League district championship and manager Tony Barnes was proud of them for achieving that.
“This is a great group of kids,” Barnes said. “We had two-weeks worth of practice but they gelled together and, as a team, we learned a lot as we went through the different tournaments.”
Other Rockmart teams also won their respective GRPA district championships around the area.
In girls’ fastpitch softball, Rockmart’s 11- and 12-year-old all-stars defeated Summerville 11-6 in the finals to advance to the state tournament in Dublin on July 8.
The 9- and-10-year-old baseball team took their title with a 12-8 win in the championship game and will play in the state tournament in Walker County beginning July 8.
Both teams played their tournaments in Cedartown.