They are once again the baseball princes of the Peach State.
The Little Leaguers from Warner Robins American, whose forerunners won a world title last year, grabbed hold of their second straight Georgia championship trophy tonight.
They hugged it and they scampered around the outfield with it in tow, dragging along a state-champs’ banner for good measure.
Moments after they knocked off the 12-year-olds from Murphey Candler 8-3, the Robins boys high-fived and danced on the infield at DeKalb County’s Shoal Creek Park. Their fans and parents serenaded them with chants of “Warner! Robins!” and “Here we come, St. Pete, here we come!”
The Houston County kids have won 10 straight since coming together for their first all-star game June 28.
Next stop: the Southeast regionals on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
That and extended summer vacation.
“We’re happy we’ll get to miss five days of school and go to regionals again,” said Robins center fielder Hunt Smith, one of the team’s two players on last year’s title team. “And if we keep winning we’ll keep going.”
Coach Tom Nauss, who in 1992 led another squad of Robins all-stars to the state crown, said, “It’s very big. There’s some emotion, I tell you.”
“This little team, they knew there was some pressure to keep up what last year’s team did. I’m gonna give them all a hug,” Nauss said. “Now we’re in the dance.”
Hunt Smith’s mother, Robin, could hardly believe the run of Little League fortune her son’s teams have had. And the parental nail-biting and stress that can go along with it.
“They have been blessed,” she said tonight, standing on the infield in the midst of the team’s postgame celebration. “You think to yourself, ‘Do I really want to do this again?’ ... Yeah, you want to do it again.”
Robins second baseman Justin Jones, who was 3-for-3 Friday with a double and two runs scored, was just glad to come through for his grandpa. It was a special day for gramps.
“Winning is the best,” Jones said. “Today was his birthday and all he said he wanted for his birthday was for us to win.”
Mickey Lay, who managed last year’s Series champs, was on hand to see this season’s bunch carry on the winning ways.
“It just shows the strength of our program,” Lay said. “Up here, this is kind of the ultimate showcase. This is where you prove and show what your players have been doing for the past four or five years.”
And it paid off bigtime Friday.
Warner Robins took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first and then made it 5-1 in the third. Starting pitcher Cody Carter (double, two RBI) walked. Jones and catcher Griffen Martin singled and all of them scored.
Robins added a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth and final frame.
But it was perhaps the Robins pitchers who shined brightest. Carter dealt two innings of one-run ball. Then reliever A.J. Priaulx, who plays trombone in his middle school band, struck up a beat Murphey Candler couldn’t keep. Priaulx, who says he “unleashes my inner beast” when he takes the mound, fanned seven in a row in the middle innings to help put the game away.
Nauss, his coach, hollered encouragement as he mowed down batter after batter, grunting with each pitch.
“That’s the way to throw the apple!” Nauss said.
Priaulx’s dad, Don, said, “He told us he was ready to pitch. He’s kind of quiet, but when he says he’s ready, he’s ready.”
And so now are the Robins all-stars.
Back in the hunt for more late-summer magic with the big boys of Little League.