WARNER ROBINS -- The hometown team for Georgia showed some grit on national television Wednesday, beating top-seeded Virginia 5-1 to earn a berth in the Little League Baseball Southeastern Regional Tournament championship game.
Georgia will play Tennessee from Goodlettsville at 7 p.m. on Friday on ESPN. The winner of that game advances to the Little League World Series.
Tennessee beat North Carolina 9-3 on Wednesday.
Georgia, after losing its first game in the tournament to North Carolina, dug deep and fought back, winning its next three games.
The team from Warner Robins American Little League was led by pitchers Tee Adams, the starter, and Leyton Pinckney. Combined, the pair had eight strikeouts. Bryce Morgan came in with an out in the bottom of the sixth and added a strikeout of his own and ended the game on the mound.
Manager Martin Pinckney said he was proud of the effort the pitchers gave him, especially Morgan.
“Those last two outs are the hardest to get,” Pinckney said.
The coaches told the players not to focus on the large crowd but to play their game. Adams was in his zone and just focused on each pitch.
“I tried not to think about the people in the stands,” Adams said.
In a must-win situation, Martin Pinckney used up Adams, who ended with 68 pitches and will be ineligible to pitch Friday.
“We were playing pitch-o-namics,” Martin Pinckney said of trying to keep the pitch count low for his son Leyton, who will pitch in Friday’s game.
A couple of defensive plays in the outfield kept the momentum in Georgia’s favor, including Reggie Ling’s bases-loaded catch.
“Ling made a fantastic catch with the bases loaded,” Pinckney said.
The first inning was scoreless but Chase Padgett, who drew a walk in the top of the second inning, started the scoring for Georgia by coming home on a passed ball by Virginia pitcher Jason Volpicelli. Morgan hit a sacrifice to score Jackson Will, who also walked to get on base.
In the top of the third, Leyton Pinckney hit a stand-up double into left field. He scored on a passed ball during Jackson Jones’ at-bat to make it 3-0.
In the bottom of the third, Iain Muir reached first on a fielder’s choice and scored on a passed ball. Martin Pinckney argued the ball was a foul tip, but the score stood for Virginia, making it 3-1.
Georgia loaded the bases in the fifth and added two insurance runs on a single from Connor Bookout.
“Bookout had a key hit,” Martin Pinckney said.
The dream for this team is still to get to Williamsport, Pa., for the World Series.
To achieve that, it will need one more win.