PORTLAND, Ore. — Top this, boys.
Warner Robins American Little League saved the best for last at the Softball World Series. Warner Robins pounded out hit after hit en route to a 14-2, four-inning victory over Crawford, Texas, in the finals Wednesday at Alpenrose Stadium in Portland, Ore.
It’s the first softball championship for Warner Robins, which won the Little League baseball championship in 2007. Warner Robins’ boys begin play in the baseball World Series on Friday in Williamsport, Pa. If they should win, it would be an unprecedented feat for a single league in one year.
After grinding out most of its previous wins with aggressive baserunning and great defense, Warner Robins’ big bats finally came around in time for the title game.
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“Our kids aren’t very big in stature,” manager Emily Whaley said. “But they make up for it by playing with tremendous heart.”
Perhaps the weather provided a boost, too. While the tournament opened under cool, cloudy skies last week, the temperature soared to an unseasonable — for the Pacific Northwest — 95 degrees at game time.
And like every game it had played so far, Warner Robins jumped on its opponent early.
Warner Robins sent down Crawford in order in the top of the first inning, then began an offensive onslaught that saw it send 26 batters to the plate in just three innings. Warner Robins scored twice in the first inning and six times each in the second and third. Eight consecutive batters reached base in the third inning.
Carson Carriker and Caityln Parker each had three hits in their only three at-bats.
Carriker was in Williamsport when her brother Dalton hit a walk-off homer to win the 2007 championship.
“Now I know how he feels,” she said.
Carriker says she was confident in her team the whole time.
“I knew from the beginning we were good enough to do this,” she said.
And while the bats made most of the noise, the sparkling defense didn’t go anywhere. Ground balls were repeatedly swallowed up by Warner Robins’ defense. Crawford threatened in the second inning with two balls that went to the outfield wall, but both times the Warner Robins outfielders held them to singles.
Kaylee Albritton pitched all four innings for Warner Robins, allowing just two runs that scored on an error.
“I felt good right from the start,” Albritton said. “I just know that we work so well together, and that helped us come out on top.”
Albritton wowed the crowd with her changeup, eliciting “oohs” from the crowd on every pitch that fooled a Crawford hitter.
It was quite a wake-up call for a Crawford team that had only allowed five runs in five tournament games going into the final. It had difficulty adjusting to the pressure Warner Robins presented on the basepaths.
For Whaley, playing to the team’s strengths was the key to victory.
“We knew we had a good defense and we had the pitching, so we felt like we could play with anyone,” she said. “They always came through when we needed it most.”