WARNER ROBINS -- North Carolinas Phillip Boykin wasnt about to be fooled again. A strikeout victim on curve balls in the dirt in two earlier at-bats off Florida left-hander Benji Hidalgo, Boykin approached his final at-bat with a plan.
I told myself to stay back on the curve, Boykin said. I was looking for the curve.
He got one, but this time Hidalgos delivery was up in the strike zone. Boykin hammered it over the left-field fence for a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. The blast capped North Carolinas rally from a four-run deficit and pushed the team into the semifinals of the Little League Baseball Southeastern Regional tournament after a 6-4 defeat of Florida on Monday.
North Carolina earned the top seed from Pool B and will play Tennessee at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Georgia is scheduled to play Pool A winner Virginia at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Holton Ahlers pitched 2-1/3 innings of scoreless relief for the win. He also homered with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the game at 4 and set the stage for Boykins heroics.
The team depends on you to close it out, the tall left-hander said of his thought process as he took the mound in the top of the sixth. You really need to win.
Hidalgo pitched a complete game for Florida and probably deserved a better fate. He and his teammates led 4-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning, but a pair of defensive miscues resulted in three unearned runs for North Carolina.
We made a couple of boo-boos, Florida manager Tate Whatley said.
With one out and a man at first, a Florida outfielder dropped Ahlers high fly ball for an error. One out later, Hidalgo seemed out of the inning when he induced another high fly off the bat of North Carolina catcher Kenneth Simmons. Florida couldnt make a play on the ball, however, and it dropped for a double.
The hit was North Carolinas first off Hidalgo, and it scored two runs. Simmons later scored after a pair of wild pitches.
That one play kind of settled us down while also igniting us, North Carolina manager Eric Jarman said.
Florida catcher Tate Whatley went 3-for-3. His two-run home run off Florida starter Austin Bland staked his club to a 4-0 lead heading into the bottom of the third.
The start of the game was delayed approximately 90 minutes as a storm moved through south Houston County.