"When we started that tournament, I told those kids that they were the best kids in the tournament -- that's if we could control our emotions," said Shannon Wehunt, Bartow Blue's head coach.
That isn't always so easy when it comes to 6-year-olds, Wehunt acknowledged, but his team kept their emotions in check, defeating Powder Springs, 12-3, to advance to the state portion of the Dizzy Dean tournament.
"We hit (decently), but our defense showed up and shut 'em down," he said. Bartow Blue committed only a couple of errors on the day.
Half of Wehunt's team played for him during the regular season of the Bartow County Parks and Recreation league, but the other half had to get acclimated to his system and another level of competition.
"I took the new kids and we went and played in two (or) three all-star (warmup tournaments)," the Bartow Blue coach said.
In those tournaments, the newest members of the Bartow Blue took home one title and placed third in another tournament.
"It exposed those kids that have not played for my team to higher competition," Wehunt said of the benefit of those early tournaments.
Now, the Bartow all-stars look to take another leap up in competiton on their quest to become state champions.
"The thing about this team is not only do we have athletes ... but I have an incredible coaching staff," said Wehunt, who is joined by assistant coaches Gavin Wilkins, Andy Rothschild, Dan Heilman and Johnny Brasfield.
"These kids are getting very good instruction. ... It's amazing to me that those 6-year-olds can understand the system."
Wehunt thinks his team stands a good chance to add to its district championship.
"I have watched these other 6-year-old teams in the state (while scouting) ... I know we're a top four team in the state," he said. "If we practice hard and do the things we're capable of ... we can make a run at winning state."
Bartow Blue's members have done just that, forfeiting a good portion of their free time this summer to strive for a state title.
"We're taking some time away from them enjoying summer, but they came out and they practiced hard (Wednesday)," Wehunt said. "We've got to get better each practice ... that's where the games are decided -- in practice.
"We've got to take it up another notch at practice. We're going to implement a couple more things going forward."
One thing the coach will focus on is baserunning, knowing how important it will be to not jeopardize any run-scoring opportunities at the next level.
"We can't afford to make mistakes on the basepaths," Wehunt said.
The Bartow Blue coach added: "Ever since I started, I've worked more on defense but now going forward, I'm going to turn that toward hitting because I know our defense is sound.
"But we've got to hit with those bigger teams."
The Dizzy Dean state tournament begins in early July at Chickamauga, Wehunt said, and local support will likely be out in full force.
"I want to say thank you to Bartow County ... I couldn't ask for better fans and parents," Wehunt said. "The county has supported us well."