Georgia Had World Series on Its Mind
The Southeast Champions Are Now United States Champions; Earn Bid to the 2006 Little League Baseball World Series Title Game With 7-3 Win Over Northwest
By Allie Weinberger
In Georgia’s 7-3 United States Championship game win over Oregon Saturday afternoon at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, it was a little stolen base that vaulted the Southeast champs into Sunday’s Little League Baseball World Series Championship Game.
With the game knotted at 3-3 in the top of the fifth inning, J.T. Phillips, who struck out eight to earned the mound win, drew a one-out walk from Oregon ace Jace Fry. After Patrick Stallings popped out to right field, Phillips decided he needed to get into scoring position any way he could with two outs in the inning. Then, during Brady Hamilton’s at-bat, Phillips took off for second as catcher Trevor Nix returned a pitch to the mound.
The delayed steal paid off. Phillips took the bag without a throw.
“I did that on my own,” said Phillips.
So with Phillips in scoring position, Hamilton dropped a bloop single to left-center that fell just beyond diving shortstop Derek Keller. The hit brought Phillips – and the 4-3 lead – home.
“I think that [steal] was huge,” said Georgia manager Randy Morris. “Heads up base running on his part.”
The top of the sixth sealed the deal for the Southeast All-Stars. A walk and a throwing error put Ryan Lang on second for Kyle Carter, who went 1-for-3 on the day. For the fourth time in the tournament, Carter was intentionally walked, but not before Fry lost control of the first intentional ball.
The wild pitch moved Georgia’s insurance run just 60 feet away. Still, Oregon skipper Jeff Keller decided to walk the slugger.
“He’s hammered teams all season long,” said Keller. “When you have an open base, it’s an easy decision.”
But lightning does strike twice. And if it’s in the form of No. 2 hitter Josh Lester, lightning strikes four times. With runners on the corners, Lester came through again with a single up the middle to score Lang from third.
“I’ve seen it before,” Lester said of Carter’s freebie. “I know I can hit. I’ve been in that situation before.”
Lester is now 4-for-4 with seven runs batted in at the Series when opponents intentionally walk Carter in front of him.
But the scoring wasn’t over yet. A two-run double down the left-field line from Cody Walker brought home both Carter and Lester, and the 7-3 score would prove to be permanent.
“With a one-run ballgame there was a lot more enthusiasm and motivation,” said Keller. “It’s easier to come back from one run than it is from four. We gave up three the next inning, and that was the tough part – especially the first one or two in that inning. Then you saw a little bit of steam come out of their eyes.
“[Georgia is] a great baseball team,” Keller continued. “They came out tonight and hit the ball very well. I guarantee you Jace has never been hit like that before.”
The scoring got started in the first when Fry came out lacking the control he flaunted in his last outing. After walking Lester with one out in the opening frame, Fry threw out the lead runner when Walker grounded into a fielder’s choice for the inning’s second out.
But the Oregon hurler gave Walker second when a wild pitch got past catcher Nix. A walk to Phillips put two on and two out for Stallings, who hammered a single up the middle to score Walker.
A hit to left by Hamilton followed by a fielding error by Keller at short brought in two more runs to run the early deficit to 3-0.
“We knew we could hit the ball,” said Lang. “We’re a strong hitting team and we knew we could do it.”
The Northwest champs almost shifted the momentum their way in the bottom of the first, when red-hot Sam Albert smacked a ball that seemed sure to fall into short left field. Instead, Lester reached up and grabbed the ball, robbing Albert of a hit and nearly getting the double play when Fry barely managed to squeak back to second before the tag.
“[Sam is] seeing the ball incredibly well,” said Keller. “It’s nice that we have another game tomorrow so that we can continue to see him swing the bat, cause right now he is in a great groove and he’s hitting the ball harder than anyone on our team.
“He is right on the baseball,” Keller added. “He should have been 3-for-3.”
It was in the fourth frame that Oregon equaled the score. Albert got the rally started when he smacked the first pitch from Phillips into left field and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Austin Perry brought Albert around with a single that was laced back at the pitcher and skipped up the middle. The throw home from centerfield allowed Perry to take an extra base and put Oregon’s first run on the board.
But Perry didn’t need the extra feet. Nix, listed at 5-foot-1 and 93 pounds, took a 2-1 pitch over the left-field fence to tie it, 3-3. The catcher circled the bases with his fist in the air, ending his 240-foot trot with a leap into his awaiting teammates at home plate.
“We got back 3-3,” said Keller. “A lot of emotion after that home run.”
The inning continued with an error by Rovig at second base, giving pinch-hitter Perry Lampman first. But, Phillips was able to get out of the inning without further damage after Fry popped out to deep centerfield.
“I was holding my breath that it wasn’t going out, cause that would have been huge,” said Morris.
Fry rounded out his final outing of the 2006 Series allowing seven runs on eight hits while striking out six in a complete-game effort. Phillips gave up three runs and a walk in his six-inning three-hitter, fanning eight along the way.
“We had our chances,” said Keller. “We had some big kids coming up that have performed for us all year long in big spots that didn’t perform for us tonight. We didn’t get the clutch hit except for Trevor’s two-run homer. That’s the way it goes.
“[Georgia] hit the ball very well,” he added. “That’s because they’re the best team in the United States. And if we can walk off the field saying we are the second-best team in the United States, that’s something to be pretty darn proud of.”
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