10u Troop Nationals win sportsmanship award, finish fourth at Georgia Dixie Youth Tournament – Reuters
The 10u Troop Nationals made the LaGrange area proud with their accomplishments last weekend at the Georgia Dixie Youth Tournament in Wrens.
“The youngsters fought and participated in every round and gave it their all,” coach Steven Tanner said. “It’s been a phenomenal few days with the team.”
The Nationals beat Columbia American 9-2 in Game 1 before falling to North Macon 8-1 in Game 2. On the verge of elimination, the Nationals won their playoff game 17-5 to set up a date with Perry in the semifinals on Saturday. The Nationals were leading 6-5 when the rain hit and caused a delay of several hours. The Nationals traveled 45 minutes to their hotel in Augusta, where they stayed for a few hours before making the 45-minute drive to Wrens in the evening to finish the game.
Perry, who hadn’t lost a match in the tournament so far, came out hot from the weather lag and poured it out. Perry quickly took an 11-6 lead, but all hope was not lost for the Nationals. The team broke into the final inning to cut Perry’s lead to 11-9 and with the tying run at first base they could not complete the rally but showed fighting spirit until the end.
“It was a team effort,” coach Johny Ricks said. “They never stopped fighting and I think that’s a huge testament to their love of the game, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The team was finally able to display their passion in front of a large crowd this weekend after working hard for a month to achieve this position.
Get all 12 players back and forth – Harper Calhoun, Woods Griffin, Carter Harrill, Bentley Henderson, Grady Kelton, Jacob Kemper, Ben Lupien, Sammir Pope, Hatcher Ricks, Colton Shelnutt, Andrew Tanner and Mason Ward – and keep them focused and motivated was a monumental task. Ricks and Tanner were instrumental in this and were aided by legendary LaGrange College coach David Kelton.
“Having his expertise and knowledge was huge,” Tanner said.
It wasn’t just the coaches who made it all possible, it was a village of families that came together and made it all possible. Without them, these young boys would not have had this experience of a lifetime.
“We had a great group of parents who took care of us,” Ricks said. “They made sure we had a meal for us when we got back to the hotel, and I don’t know what we would have done without them.”
Although they were eliminated from the tournament with a fourth-place finish, the Nationals were asked to stay for the trophy ceremony after the final matches. Confusion turned to elation when the team was announced as the winner of the Tommy Henry Trophy for Sportsmanship. The character of the Nationals players was easy to see as the team performed well before and after games – holding a prayer circle after each game to give thanks regardless of the game’s outcome.
“There are more important things than winning and losing in sports and doing things the right way is one of them,” Ricks said. “For us, as a community and as a team, this is something to be proud of.”
“It shows you what kind of kids they are,” Tanner said. “They prayed before and after every game and showed how to act on and off the pitch.”
After a long spring season in which these 12 kids were selected as national team stars, it was a tough June as they trained almost every day of the week for over a month. Now players will have time off before starting a recreational season in the fall. Players will scatter across the county, state, etc. from here, but the memories of this weekend in early July 2022 will live on forever.