DUBLIN, Ga. -- A group of young Thomson baseball players still are celebrating a big feat in their lives -- capturing a state title.
The Thomson Wildcats, a 12 and under traveling baseball team that is made up of players mostly from Thomson, accomplished the feat this past Sunday while playing in the prestigious Nations Baseball Tournament at Southern Pines Regional Park near Dublin.
The following players make up the Thomson Wildcats: Duncan Adams, Cade Brown, Cody Brown, Kyle Edwards, Austin Granger, Morgan Hyde, Tanner Ketchum, Preston "Whit" Newton, Brian Smith, Coven Smith and Brycen Taylor. They are coached by Robert Brown, Brad Smith, Wayne Ketchum, Preston Newton and Jon Gridley.
"It feels sweet to have won it all," said a jubilant Thomson Wildcats head coach Robert Brown. "We really hit the ball, pitched well and played good defense during the last three games. I'm real proud of this team. I don't think the boys really realized right away that they won a state championship. They just wanted to win a ring."
Each of the players was presented rings for their championship performance.
The Thomson Wildcats defeated the Diamond Dominators of Warner Robins 8-6 in the championship game on Sunday afternoon. It marked the second time that the two teams had to face each other in the tournament. In their first meeting, a game which was played the night before, the Wildcats defeated them 7-4.
When the same two teams met for the title game, things were much different, as the Wildcats had to battle back from a two-run deficit, 6-4, late in the game.
The excitement began with Thomson batting in the bottom of the fifth inning. With one out, Coven Smith reached on a base hit. Teammate Morgan Hyde followed by hitting his first homerun ever -- a two-run shot over the centerfield fence that knotted the game at 6-6.
Third baseman Brian Smith kept the inning alive by hitting a single following Hyde's dramatic homer. Austin Granger followed by flying out to the outfield for the second out. Catcher Brycen Taylor then launched a pitch high and deep over the left centerfield fence that gave the Wildcats a lead of 8-6.
"He hit the ball clean over the road and into a pasture," said coach Brown. "He hit it about 350 feet. That's a long way for a kid who is just 12."
Up by two runs going into the top of the sixth inning, the Wildcats knew the tournament was theirs for the taking as long as they could keep the Dominators from scoring at least two runs. Sure enough, the Thomson team held them off, thanks in part to some fine pitching from starter Brycen Taylor who worked five innings before being relieved by Cody Brown.
The 12-year-old relief pitcher got the first two batters on strikeouts before experiencing some control problems with his pitches. As a result, he gave up a single and then walked the next two batters to load the bases. Brown then got ahead of the next batter with two strikes before the batter lined a sharply hit ball to third baseman Brian Smith, who stepped on the bag for the force out which ended the threat and assured the Wildcats of the state championship.
"The last boy that Cody was pitching to had hit two homeruns in the game before we played them for the championship," said coach Brown, adding, "I was doing a little sweating when that boy was at bat."
In triple-digit temperatures and a playing surface well over 100-degrees, the Wildcats played three games on Saturday. The second game of pool play saw the Line Drive team defeat the Thomson team 7-4.
The losing pitcher was Kyle Edwards, who worked 2 2/3 innings before being relieved by Cade Brown and later Duncan Adams.
Down 7-2, the Wildcats tried to come back in the bottom of the sixth inning. Second baseman Tanner Ketchum hit a two-out double into the leftfield corner and later scored when Kyle Edwards smashed a two-run homer over the leftfield fence.
In the first game of the tourney, the Wildcats, who now sport a 27-6 over the fall, spring and summer season, defeated the G-Force 10-4 before playing the Diamond Dominators in the first of two games.
Coach Brown pointed out that five of the players on the Dominators' team played on the Little League World Series team last year that was featured on national television.
"I think that says a lot about the caliber of players we played against in the Nations Tournament," said coach Brown.