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The Paris 6U tee ball team was recently crowned state champions. Pictured, the team poses after downing East Montgomery County to claim the title.

Entering the state championship this past weekend, the players and coaches on the Paris 6U tee ball team knew they had a chance to go all the way if they played as well as they were capable of. When all was said and done, that’s exactly what happened.

Ultimately, the Paris boys downed the Houston-based East Montgomery County team in three games to take the state title and move on to the World Series, where they’ll face off against teams from across the country.

“There was a lot of excitement among the kids headed in,” head coach Bronson Brown. “The kids were ready to go right from the start.”

Despite the confidence heading in, Paris came out somewhat flat-footed in the first game of the best-of-three series, losing by more than 10 runs, Brown said. Rather than be discouraged, though, the Paris players became determined.

“They never had doubt,” Brown said. “It’s crazy to say that about a group of six-year-olds but it’s true.”

After dropping the opening game, Paris came out with a vengeance on the second day of the tournament, and flipped the script on East Montgomery County.

“Everyone hit the ball extremely well,” Brown said. “One of the big highlights at the plate came when Ryder Smith hit the ball through the fence, which is ruled a ground rule double at this level.”

An offensive explosion helped propel Paris to a 17-6 win in the second game of the series, but the team shined in more areas than just hitting.

Second baseman Nate Norwood had the awareness to turn several double plays, and shortstop Zayden Patterson — who would go on to be named series MVP in large part for his defensive tenacity — made some stellar defensive plays.

“These kids are young but they’re really good ball players for their age,” Brown said. “Some of these kids would be able to fit in on an 8U team; they’re that good.”

In the third and decisive game, Paris’ bats stayed hot, and the defense remained stalwart, and the team coasted to a 14-8 win and the title.

Brown pointed to several more highlight-worthy plays from the decisive game, including a play where first baseman Coen Brown came off the bag to tag out a runner on a throw from Patterson, a play at home plate where Smith tagged out a runner looking to score, and a moment where outfielder Grayson Bunch threw a runner out all the way from the outfieldt.

And at the plate, Cam Erwin came up with two big hits while the score was very much still in the balance.

“Everyone played a part; it was a total team effort,” the head coach said.

Brown said the way the team responded after dropping the first game of the series speaks volumes about their maturity and experience — even at a young age — playing in high-stakes situations.

“We have the experience of playing in a lot of games and a lot of tournaments, so they know what it’s like to face adversity,” he said. “They responded well to it, and I’m extremely proud of them. It’s just a sign of mental toughness and maturity.”

Brown said that even though East Montgomery County had not lost a single game this year headed into the state championship series, his team never doubted they’d be able to secure the title.

Looking to the future, the team will move on to the World Series this coming weekend in Texarkana. Pool play will be on Friday and Saturday, with the elimination play on Sunday.

Joining them in the World Series will be a familiar foe in East Montgomery County, as the runners-up advance to the final round of the playoffs as well.

For Brown, the team they just downed in the state championships is still a team they’ll hope to avoid in the World Series, he said.

“Even though we beat them, they’re a really good team, and if some things had gone differently they could’ve beaten us,” Brown said. “They’re one of the teams I’ll be most worried about.”

“With this group we have, we have all the confidence in the world,” Brown said.

Tommy Culkin is sports editor for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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