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'Just keep fighting': Despite title loss, Booth lives on in Hartselle baseball team

May 18—JACKSONVILLE — It wasn't the outcome the Hartselle Tigers were hoping for.

The Tigers fell Friday 7-6 to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in the final game of the Class 6A baseball championship. All season long it had been a goal for the baseball team, especially the 10 seniors, to earn head coach William Booth his 10th championship ring. That goal became even more important to them when the state's winningest coach died Wednesday.

But even though the end of the season didn't turn out the way they had hoped, the Tigers said they knew their coach would be proud.

"If he was here, he would tell us to just keep fighting," senior Cade Miles said. "That was always his message to us, and that's what we're going to continue to do."

Booth may be gone, but according to coach Jake Miles, he'll live on in the program for years to come.

"Even with the passing of coach, our program is in better shape now because of these young men and what has been instilled in them," Jake Miles said. "The way they practiced, the way they carried themselves — we always talk about leaving something better than we found it, and I can say without a doubt that that's what these seniors have done."

Hartselle showed that fighting spirit Friday.

After losing 14-3 in Game 1 on Thursday, the Tigers rallied to win Game 2, 10-3. In Game 3 they trailed 6-3 in the fifth inning, but came back to tie it 6-6 before ultimately falling in the final inning.

"We've faced adversity all season with coach being sick and injuries and then coach passing away on Wednesday," Jake Miles said. "But we always found a way to pick ourselves off the mat. The character and the culture in our dugout is second to none."

After the game, Booth was honored when his son Mason Booth was brought out to receive the game ball, something that meant a lot to the coaches and players.

"It's important to give respect to the people that have put a lot in the community," an emotional Jake Miles said. "How couldn't we do that because I'm not the head coach, Coach Booth is the head coach. It was only fitting for him to be recognized because this is his team."

No one was closer to Booth on the current team than the 10 seniors. Asked before the series what he meant to the team, players had a hard time describing it.

"He made a difference and an impact in a lot of people's lives," senior JoJo Williamson said. "It's hard to put into words. I know we'll miss him."

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