Down 5-3 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, it looked as though the Cinderella baseball season had come to an end for the Thomson Wildcats last Saturday in the USSSA World Series being played near Orlando, Fla. And that's just when the Thomson team growled right back to win the game in dramatic fashion 6-5.
It set the stage for the Wildcats to advance into the championship game against the Bulldogs of Brentwood, Tenn.
"We were tickled to death and shocked at the same time," said Thomson Head Coach Robert Brown of Dearing during a Monday interview with The McDuffie Mirror. "We're all very proud of them. We couldn't have asked any more of them."
The Thomson players were up against a nationally-ranked team from Houston, Tex., who came into the game sporting a most-impressive record of 82-14 on the year.
"It's still hard to believe that we beat a team as good as they were," admitted Assistant Coach Jon Gridley. "We caught fire as a team and beat them, though."
The last inning rally began when Tanner Ketchum drew a leadoff walk. Kyle Edwards then hit a single up the middle to place runners on first and second with no outs. A short time later, both runners advanced 60 more feet around the base path after pulling off a successful double-steal.
Ketchum and Edwards both scored when teammate Garrett McClure smashed a double into center field - thus tying the game at 5-5. Duncan Adams, the right fielder for the Thomson Wildcats later was called on to replace McClure as a pinch runner. Cade Brown then sacrificed Adams over to third base on a nicely-executed bunt.
The rally continued when Coven Smith followed with another bunt - one that turned into an infield hit and placed Wildcats at the corners - first and third bases. Morgan Hyde, the team's leadoff hitter, was then intentionally walked to load the bases.
That's when Brian Smith turned on a pitch, hitting it hard down the third base side, which couldn't be fielded and thus allowed Adams to score the game-winning run.
"Everybody on our team and all our fans just started jumping up and down with excitement," recalled Coach Brown. "It was a great feeling. I don't think that feeling will ever go away any time soon for any of us."
The victory over the Texas team automatically put the Wildcats into the championship game against the Brentwood Bulldogs. Unfortunately, the Thomson team wasn't able to get past the Bulldogs, who defeated them 6-5 to claim the USSSA World Series Championship. Thomson had led going into the bottom half of the sixth inning. The Bulldogs managed to tally a pair of runs during that time to win the game.
"We played two great baseball games," said Coach Brown. "Our kids played as good in those two games as they have played all season. As coaches, we couldn't have been more proud of them."
For their efforts, the local traveling baseball team received a beautiful crystal trophy, signifying them to be the Runners-Up team of the 2008 USSSA World Series. Each team member and coach will keep the trophy for two weeks.
"We're going to do it like the Stanley Cup," said Coach Brown.
One of the Thomson players also earned prestigious individual honors. Duncan Adams, one of the heroes in the semi-final game, was named "Most Outstanding Defensive Player" of this year's World Series.
"I'm extremely proud of him," said Coach Brown, who works in management at Score Technology in Thomson.
Coach Gridley, who works in management at TRW in Warrenton, said Adams made four run-saving catches during the eight games that Thomson played in the World Series. "He was really deserving of that recognition."
The Thomson team was made up of players from Thomson, Lincolnton, Louisville and Appling. They included: Brian Smith, Coven Smith, Kayla James, Cade Brown, Cam Bailey, Garrett McClure, Dylan Mosley, Morgan Hyde, Duncan Adams, Whit Newton, Kyle Edwards, Tanner Ketchum and Cody Brown. Coaches of the team, other than Coach Brown and Coach Gridley, were Coach Brad Smith, an assistant football coach at Thomson High School and Coach Wayne Ketchum.