Down to its final outs, Georgia overcame the odds to earn win
As the final out approached, Peachtree City, Georgia players exuded confidence. They developed the perfect plan.
Manager Patrick Gloriod? He was not as confident. He knows maybe more than anyone how good his Southeast champion team is. But reality was setting in. His team trailed Houston, Texas, 5-2 with two outs and nobody on base in the sixth inning Monday night.
This historic Peachtree City season was all but over. Three times, Peachtree City was down to its final strike. Then the plan perfectly unfolded. Bo Walker reached on an error that should have been ruled a hit, Tai Peete doubled and Jansen Kenty hit a thrilling, game-tying two-run home run. Just like that Peachtree City forced extra innings and three innings later celebrated a riveting, 7-6, 9-inning win.
Just like that, Peachtree City reached the U.S. Final Four and earned a spot against Grosse-Pointe, Michigan in Wednesday’s losers’ bracket semifinals.
“It was disappointing on my part that this was going to all be over. I didn’t have as much confidence as the rest of them did,” Gloriod said. “I have all the confidence in the world in Jansen and he’s the kid I’d want up in that situation all day every day, but when you’re down 5-2 and you just gave up an insurance run, I don’t care what kind of team you are, you’re not real confident they’re going to come back and tie it up, but they did.”
Peachtree City overcame the odds and a fabulous Texas team. It rallied from a 4-0 fifth-inning deficit, scored six of its seven runs with two outs and again erased a deficit in extra innings, tying the game in the eighth and winning it in the ninth when Ben Traxler brought in Willis Maginnis with the winning run.
Even some of those optimistic players found the accomplishment surreal.
“Running down the line I was just thinking how crazy it was to come back from down 5-2 in the sixth inning with two outs,” Maginnis said. “It was just unbelievable.”
That moment happened because Peachtree City did believe. Peachtree City scored two, two-out fifth-inning runs when it cut a 4-0 deficit in half. Texas, though, appeared to stifle the momentum in the top of the sixth when Matthew Hedrick tripled and scored on an error.
Unfazed, Peachtree City players kept saying the comeback would happen. Even when Texas recorded the first two outs, Peachtree City was buzzing. They predicted that Walker would reach base, that Tai Peete would hit him in and that Kenty would homer and tie it.
Then that trio made it reality.
Walker hit a smash in the hole between third base and shortstop that was ruled an error, but looked much more like a hit. Peete then fell behind 0-2, but slammed an RBI double that made it, 5-3. His reaction upon reaching second made clear he had no doubt Peachtree City would find a way.
That confidence was tested when Kenty fell behind 0-2 a batter later. Kenty took a pitch and then unloaded, crushing the game-tying home run over the left-center field fence while bringing thousands of fans to their feet.
“I was so excited when I hit the home run,” Kenty said. “I’ve never been as clutch as I’ve been in that situation.”
Still, the perfect plan did not yet result in a perfect result. Texas scored an eighth-inning run and was two outs from victory, but Peete and Kenty singled and walked, respectively. Chase Fralick hit into a fielder’s choice, but Texas went for a double play and the throw to first was off the mark, allowing Peete to score the tying run.
Traxler pitched brilliant baseball in relief and found himself with a chance to clinch the unlikely win in the ninth after Maginnis was hit by a pitch, went to second on a wild pitch and reached third on a Cayden Olvey grounder. Traxler cashed in and hit a flyball down the right-field line. A good catch was made, but Maginnis hustled home and Peachtree City had completed the comeback. The best win in Peachtree City American Little League history was theirs.
“When I came up I was kind of happy to get another chance to walk-off and when I did I was just so excited,” Traxler said. “It was just really awesome.”
Peachtree City is at the Series for the first time and already has played two memorable games that will be talked about for quite some time. The first came last Friday when it dropped an epic 1-0, 11-inning clash against Hawaii that ended five minutes before midnight.
A hard-fought win against Idaho followed Saturday less than 18 hours after the Hawaii game ended. Then came Monday and the miraculous comeback. Whatever happens at the rest of this Series, Peachtree City has secured its legacy. This team is a champion and also a group of fighters.
“Every kid in the dugout was excited and jumping around thinking that is what was going to happen. It’s crazy,” Gloriod said. “Jansen got a two-strike hit and once we tied it up, even when they scored, I said there’s no way we’re losing this game. We have too much momentum and these kids want it too bad. It’s a pretty cool group of kids.”
And these kids sure play the game like men.