When the 10U Midway Allstars returned to Forsyth County from Louisiana, they arrived with a trophy that stood higher than their tallest player.
Midway, one of only two teams to represent Georgia in the USSSA Little League World Series, earned the event’s second place trophy after falling to the Pearl Mississippi Pirates 15-7 in the championship game earlier this month in Mandeville, La.
"I didn’t win this trophy," Midway head coach Matt McClintock said. "The honor goes to these players, who put in so much hard work. None of them slacked one bit."
The Midway Allstars’ roster consisted of Brandon Bick, Collin Ekerberg, Casey Gunn, Tim Holcomb, Hunter Knight, William Leonard, Matthew McClintock, Reese Mohesky, Henry Ott, Kyle Peterson, Nick Zabetakis and Zack Zabetakis.
The Allstars (21-7) won four games in the winners bracket before falling to the Pirates 13-3 and dropping into the losers bracket. Just 45 minutes later, the Allstars found themselves in an elimination game, which they won 11-9 to earn another matchup against the Pirates.
The Allstars avenged their first loss with a 9-6 win, but fell in a winner-take-all championship game 15-7 after the fifth inning due to the eight-run mercy rule.
"I hated to see the eight-run rule," McClintock said. "We had come back from 13-2 to win a game before. Our team is known to rally in the last few innings. I wish we could’ve played it out."
The 12 players, all 10 years old, swept through the Georgia state tournament, going 5-0 and outscoring the opposition 69-19. It was then that McClintock knew his group was exceptional.
"Our first goal was to win state, and I thought that may be pushing it, but we did it," McClintock said. "After I got home, I knew that this team was really good and could be special.
"They have the heart of a lion; they claw, fight and scratch. Words can’t describe how proud I am of them."
With the USSSA pitching regulations, coaches can only use a pitcher for a maximum of three innings in order for him to pitch again the next day. If the pitcher exceeds that, he isn’t allowed to pitch the next day, but can play in the field.
Pitching was the deepest aspect of the Allstars’ squad. McClintock used up to eight pitchers during the season to keep innings lowered so he could continue reusing pitchers.
Although USSSA regulations allow pitchers to throw any pitch they want, McClintock only allowed fastballs because he didn’t want to risk injuring a player’s arm.
"You’re not going far if you don’t have good pitching," McClintock said.
"We had a strong pool, so I would try and rotate my pitchers during the game. I think it’s a good rule to have.
"Nobody wants to get hurt. Coach Gary Ott did a great job rotating players."
The players took advantage of their time at the week-long tournament by participating in the World Series parade, home run and speed competitions, exchanging Little League pins with other teams and watching the fireworks on Independence Day
"The kids had a wonderful time," McClintock said. "It’s bittersweet to get a second-place trophy, but I’m proud of them. ... They had such a great season."
As for the trophy, which stands a little more than 5 feet tall, it currently resides on the counter in McClintock’s home, nearly touching the ceiling. He plans on giving it to Midway Park so other players can view the success of the 2012 10U Allstars.