Georgia leis down Hawaii, 6-2, in Saturday’s opening action
West hurler Noah Shackles tossed a complete game but it wasn’t enough to quiet the bats of the Columbus Northern Little Leaguers in Pool A action.
Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Saturday, August 21, 2010, 3:00pm ET
In a game whose excitement acted as bookends to well-pitched middle-inning
baseball, in the end only the very start would matter, as the Southeast Champs
of the Columbus Northern Little League took a 6-2 victory over the Waipio
All-Stars Saturday afternoon at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
A crowd of nearly 26,000 turned out to see what promised to be a heavy-hitting matchup, and the game appeared to be going in that direction just seven pitches in when Hawaii first baseman Ty DeSa took a first-pitch offering over the wall in right field for a two-run blast.
“It felt really good to jump ahead,” said Hawaii manager Brian Yoshii. “[Georgia starter Jacob Pate] was a very hard throwing pitcher, so it gave us some confidence.”
But despite loading the bases, the result of a shaky start on the mound from Pate, the team from the West couldn’t get anyone else to circle all 240 feet, even making the second out of the frame at home plate thanks to a heads-up play by the battery after a passed ball.
“You don’t ever want to get behind, but we kinda got used to that in the regional,” said Southeast manager Randy Morris, who is making his second appearance in Williamsport. “But our kids never give up, they fight. I challenged them after that first half inning, and they responded well.
“[Pate’s] control has been real good through all of All-Stars, so maybe he was due for this type of game,” Morris added of his starter. “But he athlete-ed through this one, I’d say.”
Pate, who threw 40 pitches and faced seven batters in the top of the first, wasn’t the only starter with consistency issues in the opening frame though.
Hawaii’s Noah Shackles quickly saw his two-run advantage deteriorate in the home half of the inning, as each of the first four batters would touch home plate before the first out was recorded.
Back-to-back walks coupled with a passed ball put two runners into scoring position for the Southeast champs, who wouldn’t wait long to capitalize on a Brandon Pugh single up the middle that knocked in both runners to knot the game at 2-2 with three outs still to play with.
“He threw me a curveball right down the middle and I just threw my hands at the ball,” said Pugh.
Cleanup hitter Knox Carter then needed just one pitch to gauge Shackles’s stuff before going yard with an 0-1 offering, clearing the bases and giving Georgia a 4-2 advantage just four batters in and still with no outs. Shackles would go on to fan the side on the next three-consecutive batters, but it was an inning that cost him 29 pitches.
“He wasn’t quite as sharp as normal, but Noah definitely pitched a really good game,” said Yoshii of his starter, “a very good game.”
Over the next four and a half innings, the teams combined for just two hits and five baserunners while both hurlers found their stride from the hill. Shackles, despite taking the loss, would pitch a complete game in the effort, the first of the tournament, allowing just three hits with five strikeouts in five innings pitched.
“The strategy was that if he was pitching fine, I was going to keep him in as long as we had a chance to win,” said Yoshii. “And definitely with a two-run gap we’re still in it, we still have a chance, so I wasn’t going to pull him.”
And Hawaii did have a chance, threatening in each of the final two innings, sending runners to third twice. But both times the West Champs were thwarted by another impressive Georgia pitcher in Troy Gilliland, who threw two frames of one-hit ball to close out the victory in just 33 pitches – 23 of them for strikes.
“Good pitching gets out good hitting most of the time, we all know that,” said Morris. “He’s a guy who just comes right at you. That’s what we ask him to do. And it was very huge that we did keep him under 35 pitches so that everyone would be ready to go Monday, except for Jacob [Pate]. That was our best case scenario.”
Georgia tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the fifth – both scored on passed balls – but the damage was already done for the 6-2 final. Pate would get the win after throwing 86 pitches, allowing a lone hit and a pair of runs while fanning seven through four innings.
“We had come into today’s game knowing that the West was a very tough team, and we were going to do everything we could to win,” said Morris. “And if that meant burning Jacob, that was OK.”
“They are a solid team and I’d say they are just as good or better [than the California teams we faced in regionals],” said Yoshii. “What I really like about them is that they’re very poised. It really was us. We didn’t perform. The scoreboard doesn’t tell you everything, but we just didn’t perform as well as we could. But we definitely were fighting till the end – and that’s what we asked of them.”
The Southeast champs move on to play the Great Lakes Region All-Stars Monday at 6 p.m. while the West will take on the Mid-Atlantic Sunday at 2 p.m. in a win-or-go-home matchup.