The 2014 GHSA baseball state finals wrapped up in dramatic fashion Tuesday with a 5A Game 3 battle between the Houston County Bears and the Whitewater Wildcats. This state title take-home was the very first for the Bears and first for the county since Perry's 1991 championship victory. Game 3 aligned with the first two, in an edge-of-your-seat, anything-can-happen fashion.
The Bears held a 5-1 lead in Game 1 before a Wildcat walk-off homer left the team with one loss from which to recover. Georgia State signee Justin Jones gave up the the Wildcat's game-winning hit but more than made up for it Monday in the squad's chance to even the series with a walk-off single in extra innings.
Game 3 was similarly chock-full of excitement. With the title on the line, the Bears came out on top but not without putting up a fight.
Down 3-0 in the first inning and then 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth, the Bears strategically and calmly played their way to a 7-4 victory.
"There are going to be times where you get down early and you just have to stay focused on what you're doing and just don't get down on yourself; manage the situation. The kids did a great job with that all season. It really would've been easy for them to kinda shut it down but they never once doubted themselves and just kept battling," Head Coach Jason Brett said.
While trying to remain as humble as possible, Coach Brett said this team knew their 2014 season was bound for something special.
"I'll be honest...I don't wanna say that we expected to win a state championship but we did. That was the goal all along. At our parent meeting at the beginning of the year, I said it's time to take the next step. We'd been to the sweet sixteen...it was time to see if we could win the whole thing."
Houston County's roster loses seven seniors to graduation this summer. Three of those talented athletes are headed to the next level--Blake Jackson to Georgia Tech, Justin Jones to Georgia State and Hunt Smith to Georgia-Southwestern. While the ultimate goal remains the same for Coach Brett and company in planning for the 2015 season, adjustments will be made to account for the new roster.
"Next year's team is not going to be this year's team and I'm not gonna ask them to do that. I'm going to ask them to be their own team and to create their own identity. We're gonna have to recreate ourselves a little bit. We've got a lot of good players returning and a lot of good players coming up. The identity may be a little different but the goals are still going to be the same," Brett explained.
But planning for the 2015 season can wait a few days...While summer has officially arrived and the '14 season has come to a close, Coach Brett and his Bears happily soak up both the summer rays and the unexplainable feeling of being state champions.
The 2014 baseball state title winners are as follows:
A-Public: Charlton County
A-Private: King's Ridge
AAA: Blessed Trinity
AAAAA: Houston County