Gainesville All-Stars’ baseball coach J.P. Gonzalez said it was like his team had just won the College World Series.
After the 10- and 11-year-old team from the Gainesville Parks and Recreation league won the state title with a 6-4 win over Columbus Northern on July 26 at Murphy-Candler Park, he said the scene was a just a sea of red celebrating the accomplishment, set off by a player dog pile on the field.
With the win, the team became the first program representing the Gainesville Parks and Recreation to capture a state title in recent years.
"I think it was big for the entire city of Gainesville," Gonzalez said.
The success for local youth baseball and softball teams has been countywide this summer.
The Hall County Southern Explosion 12-and-under softball program is looking to capture the same feeling the Gainesville team had as it travels to the Dizzy Dean World Series this weekend in Southhaven, Miss.
The Explosion (14-4) have already captured their second consecutive Hall County championship, and finished second at the state tourney in Rossville.
The Clermont A’s (39-19-2) 13-and-under travel baseball team also had a season to be proud of with a second-place finish at the USTBA national championships.
The A’s qualified for the national tourney after winning the Lanier state baseball championship in June.
As amazing as Gainesville’s win at the state tourney was for all involved, it was really an unexpected outcome, Gonzalez said.
This season’s goal was to prepare a nucleus that could contend for the Little League World Series as 12-year-olds in 2009.
Gainesville’s win in the state championship game against Columbus Northern, the same program that produced the Little League World Series champions two years ago, went down to the wire.
Gainesville led 6-4 with two outs in the top of the sixth inning, but Columbus had the tying runs in scoring position.
That’s when Reeves Ralston entered the game to record the final strikeout and preserve Gainesville’s state title.
"It was the kind of experience I could only dream of with the big dog pile we had on the field," Gainesville pitcher Sam Carpenter said.
Gainesville’s win in the state title game avenged its 10-0 loss to Columbus Northern in pool play earlier in the week. It was Gainesville’s only loss in the state tournament.
Gainesville finished its postseason run with a 4-0 record in district play and a 4-1 mark in the state tourney.
Carpenter was Gainesville’s ace during the title run with five wins (two in district and three in state). He says he learned everything he knows about pitching from his father Cris Carpenter, a former Major League pitcher.
"He tells me to keep my knee up, arm up and head facing the mitt," Sam said.
Mikey Gonzalez also had a big win for Gainesville with an 8-2 complete-game victory in the state semifinals. Drew Coker, Carpenter and Gonzalez were some of the leaders at the plate for Gainesville.
"Everyone on the team did a great job," Gonzalez said. "This state title was a total team effort."