PORTLAND, Ore. - No one paid much notice to the Latin inscription above the door at the high-school batting cage where the wondergirls of Warner Robins American Little League have been honing their pregame swings for the past week.
"Fortune favors the bold," it reads.
Fortune also appears partial to this ball-playing bunch of Georgians.
Softball-rich Warner Robins padded its pocketbook yet again Tuesday as the defending champions from Houston County cashed in a 1-0 Series semifinal win over the Central-region club from Poland, Ohio, in a game shown on national TV.
Warner Robins meets the West squad from Burbank, Calif., Wednesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 for a shot at becoming the tournament's first repeat champions since 2003-2004 when a Waco, Texas, team won back-to-back crowns. The West, which beat Central 1-0 on Sunday, defeated Tigard, Ore., 10-0 in the other semifinal.
Avery Lamb earned the victory, striking out 12 and allowing just one hit in six innings. In four games at the World Series, Warner Robins has yet to give up a run and allowed just five hits.
Warner Robins manager Roger Stella said Tuesday's victory was, well, bold.
"A pretty big statement. ... I'm more proud of this than a 20-nothing win. Anybody can win a 20-nothing game. We had our backs against the wall all night," he said.
The Southeast broke on top 1-0 in the opening frame after second baseman Sierra Stella drew a leadoff walk, made her way to third on a wild pitch and a groundout, then zipped home on another errant toss from the Central hurler.
"Everybody still breathing over here?" a stadium volunteer passing through the Southeast cheering section said.
In the bottom of the first, southpaw ace Lamb, she of the cyclonic windmill delivery, fanned Central in order, firing up the Warner Robins partisans.
The Day-Glo-orange-wearing Georgia contingent in the stands at near-full Alpenrose Stadium - moms, dads, friends and kin - was 50 or so strong and perched above the first-base dugout, waving enough signs and sporting enough funky hairdos to stage an episode of the old "Let's Make A Deal" gameshow. One mother donned a 10-gallon hat she'd spray-painted orange.
The Warner Robins crowd's homemade placards, many of which doubled as hand fans in the dry, 88-degree heat, bore an assortment of good-luck cheers as well as messages to the folks back home.
"Wish You Were Here," said one meant for the players on last year's Robins team.
Another aimed at Georgia's starting third baseman read, "Knock It Down Taylor Brown."
But on this night it was starting pitcher Lamb setting down batter after batter, employing a crafty off-speed delivery to keep hitters off balance. She struck out seven of the first 10 she faced in the opening three innings, walking one.
But with one out in the fourth after another strikeout, Central threatened. Allyson Deemer lined a triple to the gap in right-center for the Central club's first and only hit.
Lamb, whose pitch speeds were in the mid-50s, then induced a chopper to first which Hayley Tierce charged, tagged the runner going by, and held the Central runner at third. Lamb then sat down the next batter on four pitches to end the frame and preserve the 1-0 Robins lead.
"She hit the triple, I couldn't help it," Lamb said. "I threw it a little too much over the plate and she got a hold of it. Then I realized what I did wrong."
But most of what she did was spot on as she fired her third shutout of the Series.
"Avery pitched out of her mind," manager Stella said.
Warner Robins left seven runners on base through the first five innings, and in the fifth drew a pair of walks to start the inning but left them stranded after three consecutive fly-ball outs.
After Lamb tallied her tenth strikeout to polish off the bottom of the fifth in order, Robins outfielder Ashley Killebrew set up in the front of the batter's box and belted a double that nearly one-hopped the 209 sign on the wall in left-center.
After a pair of infield pop-outs and a tapper to first, Killebrew was left standing at second.
In the home half of the sixth, after Lamb fanned her 11th batter and set to work on the top of the Central order, a Georgia fan hollered, "Bow your back, baby!"
On cue, Lamb delivered a good pitch that was grounded to short and fired to first for the second out.
Five pitches later, strikeout No. 12 sealed the win.
Half an hour after that, Lamb checked her cell phone. She had 156 text messages.
One was from her favorite player, University of Georgia pitcher Alison Owens, who said she was "so proud and excited" to be her favorite athlete.
"Go Georgia!" she wrote. "We are all cheering for y'all!"
To contact writer Joe Kovac, call 744-4397.