The Meridian Star
The smallest player on team Coca-Cola scored its biggest run as Madden Gerald raced around third to give his team a 21-13 lead and clinch the Phil Hardin championship over Glass Inc. Tuesday night.
Gerald, who just turned 7 years old this season, reached on an infield hit earlier in the inning before scoring on a ground out from Shawn Cole two batters later.
“It's huge for him for this game, but he's been doing great for us all year,” Coca-Cola head coach Dusty Webb said. “He's been hitting the ball well all year, and I just couldn't be anymore proud of this team.”
Gerald's run capped off a seven-run bottom of the fifth, as Coke was able to increase the lead to eight, making it impossible for Glass Inc. to catch them in the final inning. However, the game-winning rally would not have been possible without stellar defense in the top of the frame.
Trailing Coke, 14-9, in the top of the fifth, the Glass Inc. bats came alive, rallying for four runs to cut their deficit to 14-13. Glass Inc. continued to dink and dunk its way around the diamond, loading the bases with two outs. However, Coke's slick-fielding third baseman Bradley Baylor was able to come up with a sharp hop at third before racing to the bag to end the threat.
“He's been a workhorse for us all year at third,” Webb said. “A lot of kids at this age can't make that play, but Bradley is not scared to stop the ball.”
Glass Inc. put Coke in an early hole, starting the game hot with six runs in the top of the first. The early deficit did not rattle the resilient bunch as Coke shook off the slow start with seven runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning.
“The difference with them is they don't believe they are going to lose the game,” Webb said of his team. “That's just the mentality that they play with. They never hung their head or thought they were going to lose the game.”
Webb, who coached Coke to a 14-4 record in the regular season, served as the assist man to his hot-hitting team, lobbing in pitches from the mound as part of the coach-pitch league.
“It takes a lot of batting practice,” Webb said. “You have to be able to throw strikes consistently. But, the strikes aren't the end-all, say-all. Each kid has their spot, and you have to be able to find their spot so they can hit it. It's hard to do, but by this time of year, you pretty much know where each one of them want it.”
Coke beat Subway, 13-7, and Glass Inc. took down regular-season champion Stockton Photography, 17-11, earlier in the afternoon to advance to the final.
“It's great for this to happen to a group of guys that came out every single day,” Webb said. “Our motto has always been to show up for 60 minutes and play with great attitude and great effort. From day one we did that, and I couldn't be any more proud of them.”