Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Thursday, August 18, 2011, 8:00pm ET
Despite loading the bases with no outs in the sixth inning, the Southwest Region Champions from Lafayette, La. survived their World Series debut, defeating the Southeast Region Champions from Warner Robbins, Ga., 2-0.
Up until the sixth inning, Lafayette pitcher Brad Hines had hurled a gem, scattering seven hits over five shutout innings, while striking out six.
“I think being left-handed helped,” said Hines. “I was really hitting my spots.”
But the squad from Warner Robins American Little League refused to go down without a fight.
The “Cardiac Kids” — a nickname they’ve procured throughout their tournament run — began their final stand with three consecutive base runners. Jacob Giles reached on an error, while his teammates Josh Goodman and Austin Burnette both roped singles into the outfield.
When asked if he was worried at that point, Lafayette Manager Leland Padgett had but two words to say: “Haden Erbe.”
Padgett moved the shortstop Erbe to pitcher, fully expecting him to close the game despite the precarious circumstances.
Erbe did not disappoint.
Forcing a pop-up, coaxing a strikeout looking and a lazy groundball back to the mound, he proved his coach’s optimism to be well-founded.
“I was really confident,” he said. “I’ve been in that situation a few times and it’s ended positively.”
In a game dominated by pitching and great defense, Lafayette’s two runs were enough.
Tyler Miller led the bottom of the third inning with a deep fly that scraped the top of the wall for a triple. The next batter, Nick Fruge, perfectly placed a sacrifice bunt down the first base line to bring home the first run of the game.
“I definitely thought it was going to be out because I’m used to the 200-foot fields,” Miller said. “I even started jogging to first, but when I saw it hit the wall, I just started running as fast as I could.”
Miller’s admission came much to the chagrin of Coach Padgett.
“We’ll have to work on that,” he said with a smile.
Lafayette scored their final run in the bottom of the next inning due to a litany of Warner Robins mistakes.
Highlighting his array of skills, Erbe reached first on a hard-hit single up the middle and proceeded to score following three errant pitches from Trey Odom.
Despite that erratic sequence, Odom pitched well in relief, allowing only two hits over 2.1 innings and striking out five, including three of the first four batters he faced.
With seven hits, one more than their opponent, Warner Robins certainly had more than one chance to notch some runs. But Lafayette, behind the pitching prowess of Hines and the defensive savvy of Erbe, stifled each rally.
Warner Robins stranded nine runners, five of them in scoring position.
“When you get to this level, you’ve got to play error-free baseball,” said
Warner Robins manager Phil Johnson. “We didn’t. They did.”