WARNER ROBINS — Now that is how to have a housewarming party.
Warner Robins American Little League’s debut in the new Little League Southeast Park was a near perfect one as the locals clicked in every phase of the game en route to a 12-0 thumping in four innings Thursday afternoon of South Carolina in the Little League Softball Southeastern Region Tournament.
The first opponent Warner Robins had to hurdle was nervousness. That began as the first pitch approached and picked up steam as the players took to the field for the national anthem and Little League pledge and saw how many people were on hand.
“When we were doing the pledge, I could feel my hand doing that,” Sierra Stella said, holding her hand over heart and twitching it. “My heart was really beating. When I was up to bat, my knees were shaking the whole time.”
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Manager Roger Stella was more focused on the game and his team and didn’t realize that the stadium was about two-thirds full.
“You didn’t know what to expect, especially at 1 o’clock,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting that much. It turned out to be way more. When they went out to the field to warm up, and I heard this roar, I looked up and was, ‘Maaan.’ A lot of people made it out.”
The nerves quickly left those in a Warner Robins uniform.
The defending World Series champions served notice immediately that they deserved to be considered the favorites in the regional, scoring three runs in every inning as almost everybody in the lineup had a hit by their second at-bat, which came pretty early.
Warner Robins banged out 13 hits, with the unofficial tournament hosts getting two-hit games from Sierra Stella, Melissa Cox, Ashley Killebrew and Taylor Brown. Winning pitcher Avery Lamb drove in three runs while Cox had two RBI.
“I was really proud with the way we played,” Roger Stella said. “Just keep doing what they’ve been doing, keep playing the way they’ve been playing.”
Warner Robins has an earlier wake-up call Friday when it takes on Alabama at 10 a.m.
Lamb had a more-than-comfortable 3-0 lead before she threw her first pitch, thanks to two walks, run-scoring singles from Cox and Killebrew and a fielder’s choice grounder by Brown.
“Any pitcher will say, ‘If you score first, you’re going to be ready to go,’ ” Lamb said. “It was big.”
The atmosphere forced her to do a little regrouping.
“Roger said, ‘Don’t look at them,’ ” she said of the large crowd. “Once you throw that first pitch and you’re out there, you realize it’s like playing in front of two people. Just play the game.”
Lamb gave up a leadoff single to Samantha Pegg, who was erased one out later on a force at second. That was the lone South Carolina hit until a double by Baleigh Coker with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Ashley Killebrew got Daisy Byrd to fly out to center to end the game.
After the first-inning fielder’s choice, Lamb retired five straight, gave up a walk in the third that was promptly taken care of with another force at second.
Lamb only struck out only two with one walk in the two-hitter.
“I didn’t have my best stuff,” she said. “I guess it was a little bit of the nerves. I was missing kinda high. It was just nervousness. I felt like I should have been getting crushed.”
But she calmed down and did what pitchers are supposed to do.
“The main thing we preach all the time with the girls is throwing strikes, period,” Roger Stella said. “If they hit it, they hit it. That was our main concern. Throw strikes, throw strikes, throw strikes. As long as we keep doing that, we’ll be fine.
“Everybody’s able to pitch (Friday), and everything’s fine with that. That’s huge, really huge. And we keep hitting like that, we’ll be fine.”
Warner Robins 333 3 — 12 13 0
South Carolina 000 0 — 0 2 1
WP — Avery Lamb. LP — Madison Bates.
2B: SC — Baleigh Coker
3B: WR — Melissa Cox