POWDER SPRINGS -- Down by six runs halfway through the third inning of the Cobb-Gwinnett All-Star Game on Tuesday night, the Cobb coaching staff called the team into a huddle.
Cobb had committed five errors, had yet to muster a hit and was being bullied by their opponents.
So rather than accept the defeat and let the team’s pride slip away, coach Keith Brown and assistant coach Keith Hansen built the team up.
“Don't give up. Just keep fighting,” Allatoona’s Brett Bloomquist said of the coaches' speech. “It’s baseball. It’s supposed to be fun. We weren’t having fun. It was a light-bulb moment, and we started playing hard.”
From the third inning on, the tide shifted to the Cobb's favor as it scored nine unanswered runs claim a 9-6 victory over the Gwinnett team.
The comeback began with Wheeler’s Leo Gianonni pitching a one-hit inning to cool down the Gwinnett bats that, to that point, had been controlling the game.
“It’s tough when you know you’ve only got one inning. They’ve known that for a couple days,” Brown said. “Of course, they want to go out and maybe do more than they are capable of. I think, as the first two or three guys got out there and struggled a little bit, it opened their eyes to what they could do. It settled them down.”
As the pitching staff was settling in, the offense was just heating up with a hit by Kennesaw Mountain’s Will Fincher, followed by a walk to Hillgrove’s Jack Gilsenan.
Momentum really began to swing in Cobb's favor when Walton’s Jared Jones delivered a two-run double. Walker’s Gino Groover then cut Gwinnett’s lead in half with a solo homer over the left-field wall.
The good pitching continued as Marietta’s Carlson Reed had an easy four-batter inning to get the offense back on the field.
In the fifth inning, Cobb was able to come back and tie the score at 6-all, but Bloomquist was not satisfied.
With one out and two strikes, he hit a two-run homer to give Cobb its first lead of the game.
“He is a great young man and is a gamer,” Brown said of Bloomquist, the game MVP. “He wants to play and he wants to play well. He gets stepped on at second base, stays in the game and makes a diving play on defense. We just couldn't get him out. He goes up there and hits a home run to the opposite field.”
Bloomquist described the at-bat with a little more confidence.
“I wanted to put the barrel on the ball, not do too much, and he gave me a pitch I could work with,” he said. “Of course, I drove it.”
Cobb looked like it had all but clinched the victory, but a surge from Gwinnett in the ninth forced Cobb to hold its breath.
North Cobb Christian’s Aiden Moza had worked his way into a bases-loaded situation with no outs. So Hansen, the team's pitching coach, called a meeting on the mound.
Moza responded with a strikeout, an infield play and an out at home to get the win for Cobb.
“It’s tough to get these guys to jell,” Brown said. “They’re top-quality players, and they want to show the other guy that they’re good. They want to come out here and play hard for the other team.”
Though there was a fair share of jabbering between the teams throughout the game, Brown had nothing but respect for the Gwinnett team, which was led by Wesleyan's Druw Jones -- the son of former Atlanta Braves star Andruw Jones.
“They are a very good team,” Brown said. “If you go down that lineup, they’ve got a bunch of guys with a lot of accolades and talent. They’re an older squad. A lot of those guys, this is their third year. I’m super proud of these guys for the way they came through.”