D.L. Hall moved under a routine fly ball and made the grab — only there was nothing routine about it. With the catch, Hall clinched Houston County High School’s second state title in three seasons.
“Winning two in three years is really special,” Houston County High head coach Jason Brett said. “It validates some of the hard work that you put in, you can kind of see some rewards from it.”
The Bears finished the season with a win over Loganville after senior Tanner Hall pitched a complete game one-hitter to stifle the Loganville offense.
“Honestly, going into it I wasn’t really that nervous. I guess it really didn’t click,” Tanner Hall said. “It was bittersweet coming to an end. It was awesome the way it ended my Houston County baseball career.”
While the season ended in a title, the team dealt with struggles throughout the season.
In March, the Bears took part in the Perfect Game Showdown, competing against other top rank schools from around the country. The team went 1-3 in the tournament.
“I thought that was a building weekend. I thought it showed us a lot about ourselves.” Brett said.
Brett asked each player to send him 10 things on how they could get to the goals that they wanted to reach.
Brett said the feedback “was very mature” with most of the team wanting to focus on their individual role.
“Everybody wants to be the four-hole hitter and hit home runs. Sometimes it's not as glamorous to drop down a bunt or pinch hit. It takes the small things that don't get credit,” Brett said. “The kids really bought into that and understood that ‘hey, this is gonna be my role for the day and I'm going to do it to the best of my abilities,’ and those are some of the things that stuck out to me.”
The team bounced back immediately with an 11-0 win over Warner Robins High School but found themselves in trouble against Veterans High School.
Houston County High trailed 5-1 in the fifth inning but rallied to win 10-6.
“We had to comeback and win. It was a really fun game. It was really a turning point in our season to be honest.” Tanner Hall said.
They reeled off six straight victories after that game and 21 in their next 25 games, including postseason play.
Early in the postseason, they found themselves in a tough position against Cambridge after dropping the first game in the best of three series. For Brett, the attitude that the team had during times of adversity is what made them special all year, he said.
“This year's team you could tell was a group of fighters. They felt like they were never out of it,” Brett said. “The tougher the situation the harder they fought.”
The Bears knocked off Cambridge in back-to-back games to advance to the next round. After sweeping Columbus, they earned a birth in the semi-finals.
The Bears managed to capture a winner-take-all game three against Gainsville to advance to the final against Loganville. The teams split the first two games.
In the final game, Houston County High jumped out to a lead early.
“The first couple innings were a struggle, walking people and getting into a little trouble,” Tanner Hall said. “After my team gave me some runs I settled down. I knew that all I had to do was throw strikes and we would get out of their with a win.”
Despite watching the lead swell to double digits, Brett was still trying to take it one out at a time, he says.
“I try not to look ahead. I don't like celebrating early. I guess that may be superstitious of me. My mindset is let's focus on the next pitch.” Brett said. “After we got two outs I did take my sunglasses off put them aside so I didn't break them.”
When the ball fell into D.L Hall’s glove, Brett ran from the dugout to join the pile in the middle of the diamond.
“It was just pure happiness right there. It was an emotional high,” Brett said. “It takes everybody: fans, parents, players, and coaches. It takes everybody to win a state championship.”