Virginia, Tennessee reach regional final

sports@macon.comAugust 7, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Friday night’s Little League Baseball Southeastern Regional championship game will be a rematch of familiar foes, as Virginia squares off with Tennessee for the second time in the tournament.

Virginia won the first meeting in a tight pitchers duel, 3-1 thanks to a strong outing from starting pitcher Justin Hood.

Hood won’t be available this time due to pitch limits, but he picked up the win in Wednesday night’s 12-6 victory over South Carolina to earn a spot in the final.

Virginia collected three more home runs in the game, pushing its total to nine in its past three contests.

“The end game is Friday night, and now we get to play in the one we really want,” Virginia manager John Carpin said. “I thought all day long that the kids had a really eerie calm about themselves. They were confident and relaxed.”

Tennessee advanced to the championship game on the back of a 5-1 victory over Florida in the first semifinal game. Starter Ben Pickman pitched a complete game, striking out 12 in the victory.

“Ben was clutch,” Tennessee manager Chris Mercado said. “He threw from three different arm angles, and he just mixed it up. He’s a kid that we can put on the mound and not have to worry about him. He can handle the pressure.”

Virginia has yet to lose a game this summer with a perfect 15-0 record. Tennessee enters at 14-3 and will try to duplicate its results from the district and state tournaments where it lost its opening game and then went unbeaten.

“It’s going to be a good game,” Mercado said. “Those guys are good. They are tough, they don’t make many mistake, and they can really hit. It will be a good matchup.”

“Tennessee is a very good ballclub,” Carpin said. “They hit the ball, they throw the ball, and they field the ball. They are a very potent team. We are absolutely going to have to be at our best to beat those guys two times.

The winner advances to Williamsport, Pa., and will represent the Southeast in the Little League World Series.

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