There is nothing more exciting than a great come from behind victory in sports. As a fan, reporter, a player and coach, I've been on both sides. I had been meaning to write about this one comeback win for a while and had almost forgotten that 2020 was the 30th anniversary of the greatest comeback win I've ever been associated with.
It happened in 1990. I was a third-year Dixie Youth Baseball coach for the Whitwell, Tennessee 7 & 8 year old all-stars. We had reached the championship game of the sub-district all-star tournament that summer in Tracy City and we were facing the powerful team from Dunlap, Tennessee for the title.
Around that time, Dunlap won the tournament every year because they had a remarkable group of athletes. We very seldom ever were able to beat this group.
My mother and father had driven up from Nashville to see my son Davey play because if we had lost, our season was over and we were headed the next day to Florida for a week at the beach with our whole family. That trip was very special because my father was dying from cancer and this would be the last time our family would be able to go to the beach together. I actually told them the day before that I didn't think we had much of a chance to beat Dunlap and I felt pretty sure we would be headed for the beach when the game ends.
We played as well as we could play that night but going into the last inning, we trailed 13-7. We had won the coin toss and were the home team for the game, so we were down six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. As this was "coach-pitch " I took the ball and headed to the mound for what I felt was the last inning of the season. I began to feel all the emotions that a losing coach feels in this situation. It had been a great season. We had won the league championship during the season, plus the league tournament which gave me the opportunity to coach the all-stars. Before the first batter stepped into the batter's box I noticed a few of our fans gathering up their belongings to get a head start on the crowd leaving the game.
The first two batters that inning failed to reach base, so we were down to our final out. The third batter up that inning was a sub that I had put in the game a couple of innings before. He was a great kid who always tried hard but you could count the number of hits he had all season long on one hand. He swung and missed at the first two pitches and we were down to our final out and final strike. We had nobody on base and we were still down six runs. On that last pitch to this kid, I was just hoping I wouldn't throw one in the dirt so he couldn't hit it. I threw a perfect belt-high pitch and he drilled it into right-centerfield for a double.
When our kids saw their teammate get that base hit, they all screamed for joy because they felt they were back in the game. We had some great little athletes on our team including future UTC softball standout Grace Pickett, and future Lee University pitcher Aaron Simmons as well as my son Davey who played football at UTC. And do you know what? Dunlap was never able to get that third out. Each and every kid in our lineup got a base hit. We scored seven runs and took home a thrilling 14-13 win over Dunlap. As I mentioned, that was the greatest come from behind win I've ever been associated with.
To shorten the story a bit, we had to postpone our beach trip a week or two as the District Tournament was next. While my family was disappointed that we had to wait to go to the beach, my Dad was happy for me and happy for Davey to still be playing. That's the kind of man he was. I don't know if that summer thirty years ago was special because of my Dad's last trip to the beach or that great comeback win. Deep down, I think I know.
Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com