Game 17: Southeast 3 vs. Northwest 2

Warner Robins Rallies in Sixth

Author: Gabe Hiatt

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Monday, August 24, 2009, 4:00pm ET

In 2007, Little League Baseball instituted a new Pitch Count Rule stipulating that a pitcher may pitch the next day, or in the next game, if he throws 20 or less pitches, and that a pitcher may pitch no more than 85 pitches in a game.

The rule figured prominently into the play of both sides in Monday’s game pitting the Southeast champs from Warner Robins (Ga.) against the Northwest champs from Mercer Island (Wash.).

Having already clinched the top seed in Pool A with a 2-0 record, Warner Robins called on five pitchers, limiting four of them to 20 pitches, to complete the 3-2 victory at Howard J. Lamade Stadium. Cortez Broughton earned the save on a strikeout to end the game.

“They were every bit as strong as we expected,” Mercer Island manager Steve Stenberg said. “We thought they would take a 20, 20, 20, 20 approach with their pitching, and it kept getting better as the game went.”

Mercer Island ace William Mansfield had the Warner Robins batters fooled all day. Relying on a strong curveball, Mansfield threw five innings and allowed two runs (one earned), taking his team into the sixth with a 2-1 lead.

“We think they’re a little bit weak on the curveball,” Stenberg said. “All in all we felt that we kept them about as in check as we hoped for.”

Mansfield topped out at 85 pitches in the top of the sixth, and his replacement Brandon Lawler threw three wild pitches and put the tying run on base when he hit Warner Robins centerfielder Kyle King. Two batters later, second baseman Kal Dempsey drew a walk, and both then scored on passed balls to lead their team to the 3-2 win.

“It’s pretty cool because I made up for my strikeout with that run,” said King, who whiffed in his first at-bat.

The runs validated the efforts of a team that started the day with only one run to show for its first six hits through the first five innings. Warner Robins had made it 1-0 in the second inning when Dempsey scored on Jeremiah Stephens’s sacrifice.

Mercer Island fired back in the bottom of the second, as Max Hibbert knocked in Keenan Ogard with an RBI groundout to make it 1-1. Brandon Lawler later doubled, and Sam Pugel drove him home with a run-scoring single off Sato Spencer to make it 2-1.

Conner Smith also put in 1.1 innings of work for the Warner Robins side, and Hunter Phillips struck out four of the six batters he faced, earning the win with two innings of shutout ball.

“The best teams have incredibly deep pitching staffs, it's not just having that one guy that can throw 75-plus,” Mercer Island coach Brock Mansfield said. “What you saw today was a great example of that.”

Mansfield and Stenberg were simply impressed to see their teams put forth such a strong effort after they entered the game knowing they were eliminated from Pool A play. Mercer Island Little League formed only four years ago.

“Did any of us expect to be here? No chance,” Stenberg said. “I didn’t expect to be in Williamsport the last week of August, so it’s been a great ride.”

Warner Robins has two days off before its Thursday United States semifinal matchup against the loser of Tuesday’s contest between West Region Champion Chula Vista (Calif.) Little League and Southwest Region Champion McAllister Park American (Texas) Little League.