PORTLAND, Ore. — The Warner Robins Express is gathering speed in a hurry in the Little League Softball World Series.
It barely slowed down Sunday. The Southeast Regionals champions got some stiff competition from the European winners from Milan, Italy, but won 4-1 at Alpenrose Dairy’s East Stadium.
Warner Robins is still unbeaten in B Pool play at 3-0. The victory guarantees it the No. 1 seed in the pool and a spot on ESPN2 in Tuesday’s semifinals against the No. 2 team from the A pool.
That game will be at 9:30 p.m. Warner Robins still has one more pool game to play as it faces winless Guam from the Asia-Pacific zone at 8 p.m. today.
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Some in the Warner Robins dugout confess that they had no idea when they arrived at the tournament just how good they were going to be.
“At first, our girls didn’t have the confidence they have now,” said Warner Robins second baseman Caitlin Parker, who had one of her team’s five hits and two of its runs Sunday. “We didn’t know what to expect when we got here. Then we found out we could hit here.
“We’re getting more confident now.”
Warner Robins manager Emily Whaley agrees.
“I do,” she said. “I just think that now all the nerves are gone, and we’re playing well. “
The confidence was reflected in her pitching rotation against Milan. She started Sydney Barker, one of her two-starter rotation along with Kaylee Albritton and had committed to bringing Albritton in after a couple of innings.
“But we had enough confidence,” Whaley said, “that we could bring in Avery Lamb instead. And Avery did a good job.”
Between the two pitchers, Warner Robins limited Milan to three base hits. Milan didn’t get its first hit until the fifth of six innings and struck out five times overall.
Even at that, Milan was a tough opponent.
The first two runs came on one two-out error in the first inning. Carson Carriker, hero of the dramatic win over Central on Saturday, drew a one-out walk, Parker drew another one, and Warner Robins had a rally going.
Milan pitcher Melany Sheldon almost got off the hook when she got cleanup hitter Lamb on a ground ball to the right side. But Barker’s ground ball went right between second baseman Serena Bonardi’s legs for a two-run error.
Warner Robins struck again in the third after Carriker and Parker opened the inning with singles and grabbed extra bases on aggressive running.
Beatrice Salvioni threw Carriker out at the plate on Lamb’s ground ball, but Warner Robins salvaged the rally when Barker’s ground ball rolled off Greta Turati’s glove.
That was more than enough scoring for Warner Robins, but it got another in the top of the sixth.
Warner Robins was impressed with Italy. The coaches and players expected something entirely different.
“I think they were pretty good,” Parker said. “They were better than what we expected. They used their ace pitcher the other day, so we didn’t think it could be that good.
“But it was pretty good.”