WARNER ROBINS -- The Dudley Little League All-Stars jumped out to a seven-run lead and then held on for an 8-7 win over the Warner Robins West All-Stars in the championship game of the District 5 Little League Baseball tournament for 10- and 11-year-olds played Saturday.
Dudley, located in western Laurens County, advances to the state tournament, which starts this Saturday in Peachtree City.
Despite giving up 10 walks, Dudley came up with a stellar defensive effort late in the game that was just enough to hold off a hard-charging Warner Robins West team.
We have played them three times in this tournament, and every single game was just like this one, Dudley head coach Greg Slaughter said. I dont know if we get a little bit complacent with the lead or Warner Robins is just that good, but it makes for some great baseball games. I knew coming in that we had three of our top four pitchers available, and I liked our chances. But Warner Robins will always battle to that last out. I think the defense did it for us.
Dudley jumped out early, scoring three runs in the first inning, as five straight hitters reached base after the first two batters were retired. Dudley then added two runs in the second and two more in the third, with Andrew Wright coming up with key doubles in the second and third innings.
Wright, the starting pitcher for Dudley, was in control on the mound for the first two innings. Wright did not allow a hit and struck out four during that stretch.
Warner Robins began to rally in the third as Wright began to tire. Wright recorded only one out in the third while walking three and giving up run-scoring hits to Dylan Franks and Jayden Chance.
Wright was relieved by Brent Carr, who retired one and walked two. Slaughter then elected to go to his third available pitcher, Bradley Wilson, who got the final out of the inning. Still, Warner Robins had cut the lead to 7-5.
Warner Robins got excellent relief pitching from Cameron Mashburn, who gave up only three runs in his five innings of work and gave his team a chance to win the game.
Dudley picked up a run in the top of the fourth when Wilsons sacrifice fly drove Carr home after Carr reached on a double. But Warner Robins came right back to score two runs in the bottom half of the inning to make it 8-7.
With Mashburn shutting Dudley down, Warner Robins looked to take the lead in their half of the fifth. Franks singled with one out, followed by a single from Jack Fernandez. After Wilson struck out the next hitter, Payne Sells hit a screamer down the first-base line, but AJ Mathis made a backhanded stop and won the race to first to get out of the inning.
Warner Robins put two runners on in the sixth inning, but Wilson forced a grounder to shortstop to end the game.
I just wanted to come in and throw strikes and let my team make plays behind me, Wilson said. The state tournament is going to be so much fun, and we just want to go and play our game and have fun. If we do that, I think we will do fine.