Coach Edwin Murray said his Reds dug themselves a hole early in the Cartersville Little League's Minor League playoffs -- losing their first game in the tournament -- but then found a way to win seven in a row on their way to capturing its title.
Murray said that win streak was even more difficult because his team had to beat the Pirates twice, since they had been victorious in the winners bracket.
"Our players really played their hearts out," Murray said of the Reds, comprised of youngsters ages 8 to 11.
He said the Reds managed the feat because they played hard and, more importantly, as a team: "They were disappointed in themselves after losing to the Yanks [6 to 5] and felt they didn't play well. We told them they could play one more game and go home or try to win this thing. They came to the next game and played as a team. If one of our players didn't get a hit or made an error, the others were going over and telling him we'll get them the next inning. They would pick the player up."
Picking up each other throughout the series worked for the Reds, too.
In their second game of the tournament, they defeated the Mets, 10-8, then won their rematch, 7-6, with the Yankees. They followed that up with a 6-5 victory over the A's, an 8-4 win over the Angels, a 5-3 defeat of the Orioles and a 10-5 doubling up of the Pirates.
Murray said the Reds then took on the Pirates for the league championship, pouncing on them early to claim a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
However the Pirates came to play, too, and answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame to knot the score.
The Reds added a run in the top of the second and three in the top of the third, to go up 7-3. Once again the Pirates proved resilient as they pushed three runs across the plate and were trailing just 7-6 after three complete innings.
In the fourth, the Reds added a run and then in the fifth scored four runs, as they took a comfortable 12-6 lead. The home team responded with four runs in the bottom of the frame and closed to 12-10 at the end of five innings.
In the sixth, the Reds tacked on three big runs and took a 15-10 lead, forcing the umpires to call the contest at that point because of the four-run limit that minor league teams may score in each of their innings.
Murray said the win shows that lifting your teammates helps the whole team, adding he feels it's even more important the younger the age of the players.
"Younger kids seem to get down on themselves," he said. "If a buddy or teammate walks by and pats them on the back, it helps. It's more important to them than having coaches tell the same thing to them."
He said winning with their backs to the wall also shows what his players are made of: "It's sort of unheard of to win seven in a row after losing your first game."
Contributing offensively for the Reds were Logan Gates, 2-of-3; Byers Murray, 1-of-5; Brady Evans, 3-of-3; Matthew Greene, 1-of-3; Dylan Henderson, 3-of-5; Will Noble, 2-of-6; Jonah Gamble, 2-of-4; Evan Lewis, 2-of-6 with the game winning hit; Eion Neal, 2-of-6; Evan Slocum, 1-of-2; and Joshua Quinney, 0-of-2.
Other Reds coaches were Tony Evans, Leighton Barber, Devin Henderson and Steve Gambill.