Canton’s Georgia Academy Power’s 12-and-under baseball team outlasted a field of 104 teams from all over the country last week to win the Cooperstown Dreams Park Tournament.
The tournament featured teams from 29 different states, and while, the Power had more modest goals at first, they quickly elevated as the tournament went on.
“It’s hard to say,” coach Adam Fussell said. “With a tournament of that caliber with so many teams, you don’t know. Our goal before we started was to get into the top 16, but as we kept progressing and winning, I knew we had a shot to win it.”
That shot became clear almost right away, as the Power went a perfect 6-0 through pool play.
They were one of 10 teams to finish pool play undefeated, but after allowing just 2.33 runs per game, they got a more favorable path to the finals with the No. 3 overall seed in bracket play, which provided four byes.
“We tried to take it one game at a time,” Fussell said. “For a tournament of that size, to make a deep run, you have to have good play from the kids, but you also certainly have to have some things fall your way. From the pool play schedule to the seedings to the byes we were able to get, we had some things go our way. Our kids took it one game at a time, though and played exceptionally well.”
While pitching helped the Power earn their high seed, the offense took over in bracket play.
They averaged 11.75 runs per game in their first four games to reach the championship, and it was an impressive display of power from the Power, as they finished the tournament with 43 home runs hit in 11 games.
“It was pretty cool,” Fussell said. “Not all year had we hit up and down the order from top to bottom as well as we did in Cooperstown. It was pretty special to see. We had kids in the eight, nine or 10 holes hitting home runs all week, along with the kids at the top of the order. You don’t get that in every tournament throughout the season. They turned it on there at the end, and that’s where we needed it the most.”
Wins of 12-0 and 11-3 pened bracket play for the Power, but they were challenged more in the quarterfinals before surviving 9-7 against the Miami Phenoms to reach the semifinals.
A 15-5 win against the Performance lightning got the Power to the championship game, and when all seemed lost, it was again the long ball that made the difference.
Trailing 4-3 in the sixth and final inning, the Power got runners on second and third with two outs, when Bryce Lucas hit a three-run walkoff home run to give the Power the title with a 6-4 win over Arkansas’ Rawlings Tigers, in what Fussell called the coolest moment of his career as a player of coach.
“The fans and players both went berserk when they saw the ball go over the wall,” Fussell said. “The kids were storming out of the dugout waiting on Bryce to circle the bases and get back home. That stadium is loud anyway, and those fans did a great job making it even louder. It’s just one of those things you know you won’t forget.”
The Power will have a short break before looking to end the summer season with another tournament win.
They will play in the Atlanta-hosted Triple Crown US Club Nationals July 17-20 before heading to the offseason with renewed expectations for next spring.
“We’ll take a little break,” Fussell said. “It’ll be good to have a local tournament to end on. After that we’ll pretty much shut it down and let the kids enjoy whatever other sports they like to play in the fall and winter.”