Georgia On Their Minds
Columbus Northern Little League shuts out the West Side All-Stars, 6-0, to stay undefeated in Pool A play
Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 4:00pm ET
Columbus Northern Little League would score all the runs it needed in its first three at-bats.
But that doesn't mean they stopped.
With a 6-0 win over Hamilton, Ohio, in front of more than 10,000 spectators, the Southeast champs moved to the top of Pool A Tuesday afternoon at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
Brandon Pugh gave Georgia a 1-0 lead with one out in the bottom of the first, doubling home leadoff hitter Blake Hicks. Pugh himself would score two batters later, when Kobie Buglioli took a 2-2 offering deep to give his side a 3-0 lead heading into the second inning. But the inning didn't go off without controversy.
"The kid who got on second base [Hicks] was stealing signs," Ohio manager Ken Coomer explained as the reason for the multiple mound visits from both him and his catcher. "[Our catcher] Sam Scott kept trying to get [pitcher] Cole Heflin the signs and there was some miscommunication. But the kid would hold up two fingers for curveball, you know. That's how they scored the first couple of runs, because of that."
"That's part of baseball I guess," said Georgia manager Randy Morris. "Blake's the only one on our team that really does that. I don't say I condone it and I don't say don't do that – that's up to Blake. That is, I guess, part of the game."
Hicks has a different take on the issue.
"I think it's more of a mental thing," he said. "It gets in the back of the pitcher's head that he [the runner] might know what's coming.
"[I make it] pretty obvious [that I'm stealing signs]," he added. "You're fault if you don't change them."
After going down in order in the second, Georgia would go on to score once in each of the final three frames to polish off the shutout victory, a game that originally started last night before rain chased the game away with one out in the bottom of the first. Georgia starting pitcher Troy Gilliland also got the nod for that contest, and threw a 23-pitch first inning before getting out of the jam unscathed. But due to Little League Baseball's rainout rules, any game in which a full inning can't be played is to be wiped clean, with no effect on a pitcher's 85-toss limit.
"I'm pretty happy about [the rain cancelling Monday's game], because I didn't go out there and throw 23 pitches in the first inning [today]," said Gilliland. "Really all my pitches were working and I tried to locate them the best I could. I knew they were a really good hitting team, so I knew I had to be on top of my game."
Gilliland would throw a shutout to earn the win Tuesday, allowing five hits while striking out six, but actually threw seven straight scoreless innings against the Great Lakes going back to the start of yesterday's originally scheduled contest.
"I'd probably have lost my house [if I'd bet on that]," said Morris. "We didn't expect to shut them out. We thought we'd have scored several runs… but what can I say, everybody loves Troy.
"Wow," he continued. "I don't know what else to say. You can't pitch better than that. He probably didn't miss his spots more than three times the whole game. That's incredible."
Ohio saw its best chance come in the top of the fifth when Alex Schutter singled to right with two on and no one out, a hit that should have loaded the bases for clean-up hitter Landon Stephens. But Garrett Hogan overran third base.
He was thinking about heading for home when the throw from Matthew Lang came in strong, and Hogan was caught halfway down the basepath. From there, he was an easy target for Gilliland, who connected with Buglioli at third base to make the first out of the inning – and the biggest out of the day.
"It was a pretty big sigh of relief," said Gilliland. "My teammates got it in quick and the runner missed the sign by his coach."
"That was huge," echoed Morris. "They had a little something going and their fans got back into the game. Matthew got the ball in quick and Troy made the right play. As much life as they had, I think that took it back out of them again."
Ohio would make the next two outs in order, stranding a pair.
"That was pretty rough," said Coomer. "We had the top of the order coming up, but he's a 12-year-old kid and sometimes they don't understand that when you're down five runs you stay at third. But it happens."
"I saw that the coach was saying 'Stay on the base, stay on the base. Go back, go back,'" said Buglioli, "and I saw that… we had a chance of picking him off."
The Great Lakes All-Stars would threaten again in the sixth, putting runners on first and second with two outs, but couldn't bring anyone home to deny the Southeast the shutout.
"They were ready to hit," Coomer said of his team. "No excuses or anything like that, we just didn't have key hits. We just couldn't put anything together. It was just one of those days."
Hicks went 2-for-3 from the plate on the day, smacking a solo homer to straightaway center to lead off the bottom of the fifth and to wrap up Georgia's scoring, 6-0. Lang also hit a shot to center, this one in the fourth, despite not getting the start.
"Here he is, a guy who doesn't pout [because he] doesn't start for us, but he stays in the game and here he hits a home run for us," said Morris of Lang. "That's how this team is."
Neither team could be eliminated by the outcome of the game, as the Southeast moves to 2-0 and the Great Lakes to 1-1 in the double-elimination tournament. But Ohio will have more work to do to move out of pool play, work that will start with a faceoff against the West champs from Waipahu, Hawaii Wednesday at 4 p.m. in a win-or-go-home contest.
"We'll see how we bounce back," said Coomer. "I don't think in three years we've ever been shut out.
"Hawaii's good. This is the toughest bracket up here," he added. "You've got three teams that have won the World Series in our bracket and then us. You just gotta keep reminding them we're not done. Just keep on fighting until you get that second loss. Until then, you just keep going out there."
Columbus Northern Little League moves on to Thursday night's contest and awaits the winner of Wednesday's elimination game between its most recent opponent (Ohio) and its first opponent of the 2010 Series (Hawaii).
"It was a huge game [to win]," said Morris. "You lose this game and obviously you're not out of it, but boy, it's an uphill battle. We're just glad were on this side of it. But you don't win the World Series by winning two games, so we'll just take it one game at a time."