The Sonoraville 8-under Phoenix All-Stars have been together al-most two months since the end of the regular season at the Gordon County Parks and Rec, and they have worked hard since starting the All-Star season to reach their potential. That work paid off on Friday night as they can now call themselves state champions.
The Phoenix defeated Rockmart 6-4 in the finals of the Georgia Rec-reation and Parks Association Class A/B State Baseball Tournament on Friday night at the Calhoun Rec to claim their state title, completing an undefeated run through the bracket. Sonoraville rallied for the victo-ry as they trailed 3-0 going to the bottom of the fifth before exploding for six runs in the frame and then holding Rockmart to just one in the sixth to finish things off.
“These kids have worked a lot of hot days, practiced three or four times a week for two hours at a time, and they have come a long way,” said Phoenix head coach John Sampson. “We lost a heartbreaker in district, and the kids told me the next practice that they were going to come back and win the next tournament, which was State.
“This is a great group of boys, and I couldn’t have done it without my great assistant coaches too. I’m thankful for the parents as well. They never complained about getting their kids to practice and games. We won this as a team and a family. Everyone played a part in it – players, coaches and parents.”
The state tournament run began on Tuesday (July 11) with the Phoenix defeating the Clayton County Tigers 13-11. They followed that with a 13-12 victory over Gainesville and reached the finals with a 12-8 win over Bartow County on Thursday night before the comeback win over Rockmart on Friday.
Sampson said the defense kept his team in the game on Friday until the offense could get going.
“Our defense was awesome,” said Sampson. “Our kids made some great plays in the field. Rockmart definitely earned all four runs they got. We struggled at the plate the first few innings, but the bats got hot in the fifth and we were able to put some hits together and pull it out.”
Sampson was assisted on the coaching staff by Deron Walraven, Justin Clements and Marty Rolen. Team members for the state-champion Phoenix included: Weston Clements, Carden Sampson, Clay Worley, Rush Faulk, Zeke Padgett, Charlie Walraven, Houston Childers, Tucker Gallman, Aiden Rolen, Korben Baucom and Jeremi-ah Heppner.
Sampson said he has high hopes for this group of players going forward based on their unity and work ethic.
“I think they can do real well together,” said Sampson. “One of the biggest things that showed that to me is that after every practice all the kids were together playing and talking. There wasn’t anyone or a few that separated. All the kids played together, and they were a group.
“They have worked really hard. Every one of the kids has improved and listened to everything we’ve tried to teach them. I look forward to seeing how they grow and improve over the next several years.”
The Calhoun 8-under All-Stars finished fifth in the state tournament. They opened tournament play up with a 7-0 win over Clayton County before dropping an 11-3 contest to Bartow County in the second round. They then fell into the loser’s bracket where they lost 19-12 to Cartersville to finish in a tie for fifth.