Stars play for championship
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Back-and-forth they went, going toe-to-toe in a classic championship game.
In the USSSA Georgia Baseball State Championship Tournament at the George F. Baseball Complex, the Game on Stars and Line Drive Nation (Tenn.) faced off in the final game in the 10-and-under division on Sunday evening.
Game On took the lead with four runs in the top of the fifth inning, but Line Drive Nation rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a thrilling 9-8 victory.
It wasn’t the ending the Stars were hoping for, but coach Nick Burns was thrilled with the effort his players gave against an elite team that often plays in the highest division of USSSA baseball.
“I’m definitely not one for moral victories, at all, but that loss was the best win of the year for us. I believe that,” Burns said. “It gave the kids confidence. So we’re really proud of our boys. They worked so hard, and it’s a good group of kids, a good group of parents.”
Burns was particularly pleased with the way his team competed against Line Drive Nation pitcher Audie Nicoll, who had been mostly unhittable previously. The Stars scored six runs in 4 2/3 innings against Nicoll.
Chase Hanford did a lot of the damage for the Stars with three hits, including a home run and a triple, while driving in five runs.
Riley Cockrell and Robert East each had a hit and an RBI, Sam Burns, Davis Keese and Sawyer Moss had one hit apiece, and leadoff hitter Brody Buc Cofield scored three runs.
“When you have one kid go up there and put it in play, and then the next, baseball is so contagious, the good and the bad, and it just gave the kids some confidence,” Burns said. “We ended up putting six runs on that kid.”
Trailing 7-4, the Stars pushed four runs across in the top of the fifth inning to take the lead.
With two outs, Handford’s two-run triple tied the score, and East followed with an RBI single to give the Stars a one-run lead.
Line Drive Nation answered with two runs in the bottom of the fifth to win it and claim the title.
While the Stars didn’t win the tournament, it was nonetheless a successful weekend.
After losing their first game on Saturday, the Stars won four consecutive games to earn the championship shot.
The Stars played four games on Sunday, winning three of them to reach the title game.
“Sunday, we played really well. We played well all day,” Burns said. “We threw strikes. We played good defense, and we hit the ball.”
Game On opened with a 7-3 loss to Force Baseball Academy, and it followed that up with a 16-3 victory over Beehive 10U.
On Sunday, Game On beat the Beast Mode Grinders 8-4 and the Harris County Colt .45s to make it to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Game On beat a strong D3 Nunnally team 8-4 to reach the championship game.
“They’re one of the top five or six teams in the state of Alabama,” Burns said. “They’re a really good ball team.”
Next up for the Stars will be the Jackie Robinson 42 Classic, which will be held this weekend.
“There are over 450 teams in this tournament, so we’re excited about that,” Burns said. “All the boys get a Jackie Robinson jersey. It’s going to be a neat deal.”
As always, Burns said the primary goal will be to “teach them how to play the game the right way, and with effort and discipline, and with class as well.”
TEAM MEMBERS: Brody “Buc” Cofield, Sam Burns, Sawyer Moss, Grant Chaffin, Rhett English, Riley Cockrell, Laken Tippy, Cason McGill, Davis Keese, Chase Hansford and Robert East.