Columbus Discovers U.S. Championship Game
Georgia shuts out New Hampshire 8-0 to secure U.S. Championship bid
By Allie Weinberger
Williamsport hath no fury like a Little Leaguer scorned.
On the coattails of five Josh Lester RBI and one big Kyle Carter home run, Columbus, Ga., cruised to a dominant 8-0 win over New Hampshire Thursday night at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, claiming the final spot in Saturday’s U.S. Championship.
The trouble started for Portsmouth, N.H. in the second. After starting pitcher Keegan Taylor gave two free passes to Brady Hamilton (hit by pitch) and Ryan Lang (walk), Matthew Hollis laid down a one-out sacrifice bunt to advance both runners into scoring position with Carter on deck. But Carter has already taken 53 pitches deep this year and with first base open, the New England champs weren’t about to risk an early deficit.
“We didn’t want Carter to hurt us,” New Hampshire manager Mark McCauley said. “We had the base open.”
An intentional walk to the slugger loaded the bases for Lester, who entered Thursday’s game with a .333 batting average. With two out and a 1-2 count, Georgia’s No. 2 hitter ripped a triple to the right-centerfield gap to go up, 3-0.
“That was huge,” Georgia manager Randy Morris said. “A big home run swing like that – the game was tight and that was just huge.”
“It just motivates me,” said Lester. “When they walk him, I just want to get a hit more.”
Lester wouldn’t be on the hot corner for long. With two down, Cody Walker came to the plate and took Taylor to right, bringing Lester around for the fourth and final run of the inning.
But if New Hampshire didn’t learn its lesson the first time, Lester made sure it got the message in the fourth. With a runner on second and one out, New England again pitched around Carter.
“I’d probably do the same thing,” said Morris. “I’d probably walk him and take my chances too.”
“It gets frustrating,” Carter said. “But I know Josh is behind me. I knew he was gonna hit.”
And while Carter may not like it, Lester sees the move as a win-win situation.
“It’s fine,” he said. “Because when they pitch to him, he hits. When they don’t pitch to him, I hit.”
Portsmouth learned that the hard way, as Lester cashed in on his fourth and fifth RBI of the outing with a base-clearing double up the middle.
“I felt real confident,” Lester said. “I knew that I could get another hit.”
“I can’t say enough good things about their No. 2 batter,” said McCauley.
Then again, there had to be a reason McCauley and his Portsmouth squad walked Carter twice, and they were reminded of it in the bottom of the fifth.
With the score 6-0, a runner on first and two outs, New Hampshire pitcher Mark Pearson found himself facing Carter, and for the first time of the outing, the New Hampshire side pitched to him. And he made them pay.
“I was thinking I had to still be relaxed in there, see my pitches,” he said. “I didn’t really know if was it was gonna go, so I still ran it out.”
But it went. With one mighty swing, Carter slugged his second shot of the tournament over the centerfield fence to bring home two more insurance runs and drive the score to 8-0.
“I think when Carter hit that home run, you know why we did it,” McCauley said of the pair of intentional walks. “That kid out there is one of the best kids here, if not the best.”
Carter was not only dominant with a bat Thursday night but on the rubber too, pitching a three-hit shutout.
Even so, it was New Hampshire that appeared to come out swinging early. And while the New England champs didn’t get their first hit until the second frame – a Billy Hartmann double that kissed the third baseline into left field – the Portsmouth players were sending balls well into the outfield.
“I thought I was gonna get killed in the first inning,” said Carter. “They were hitting at my feet, my head – I didn’t know what to do.”
“We felt good in the first inning,” said McCauley. “Even though we didn’t score we were making good contact. We felt like we could hit him, and we did in the first inning. We just couldn’t keep them from scoring.”
In the end, the Georgia sticks ruled the night. And according to Morris, there is more – and better – baseball to come.
“I don’t mean to sound crazy,” he said, “but we have yet to play our best baseball.”
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