WARNER ROBINS — Warner Robins American couldn’t have picked a better time to play one of its best games of the postseason.
Warner Robins banged out 10 hits and second baseman Sierra Stella turned in a trio of sparkling defensive plays to help secure an 11-4 victory against West Virginia in the semifinals of the Little League Softball Southeastern Region Tournament on Sunday.
“That was fantastic,” said Warner Robins manager Roger Stella, whose daughter helped his team overcome four miscues in the field. “That was one of the best games we’ve played overall since we started. We were a little sloppy for an inning, but we more than made up for it.”
The win, before a supportive crowd of more than 3,000 at the Little League Southeast Park, kept Warner Robins undefeated in postseason and earned it a spot in Monday’s 6 p.m. championship against Florida. West Virginia finished its postseason 12-2 after a 2-2 mark in the regional.
Ashley Killebrew and Chelsea Whaley each had two hits for Warner Robins, the defending World Series champions. Killebrew knocked in three runs and Whaley two. Avery Lamb, the starting and winning pitcher, also added a pair of hits.
Avery, Haley Tierce and Killebrew, each of whom tossed two innings, limited West Virginia to four hits. Jenna Marsh, who had a two-run single, suffered the loss in a complete game for West Virginia, which committed five errors, three in one inning.
“We told the girls going into the game we almost had to play a perfect game against a really good team like (Warner Robins),” West Virginia manager Rich Wetzel said. “You can’t give anybody four or five outs extra.”
Warner Robins was able to overcome its errors with the help of the diminutive Sierra Stella. With her team leading 6-4, the second baseman killed a West Virginia rally by picking off a grounder by Marsh that caromed off Tierce’s glove and throwing the runner out at first for the final out. West Virginia had runners on second and third.
“We could’ve got one run for sure and maybe two,” Wetzel said. “Maybe we could’ve broken it open. She played an outstanding game.”
Wetzel’s counterpart said, “Huge play, just huge. You don’t know what they might do after that if we don’t get that out.”
Stella made the fourth-inning play look routine by turning the trick twice more for the second and third outs of the fifth inning.
“We hit the ball hard,” Wetzel said. “Those right back up the middle off the pitcher were hard, but (Stella) made really good plays. We hit the ball hard, but it always seemed like it was right at somebody. We couldn’t get a break.”
Whaley knocked in her two runs with a single to key a three-run second inning that put Warner Robins up 3-0. It stretched the lead to 5-0 in the third with the help of three errors and run-scoring singles from Killebrew and Amber Coy.
Marsh got West Virginia on the board with a two-run single in the third when Warner Robins committed two of its errors. The second error, a dropped fly ball in the outfield allowed Marsh to score to make it 5-3.
Killebrew collected her second run batted in with a sacrifice fly for a 6-3 lead in the fourth. Warner Robins broke the game open with five runs in the sixth on three singles and a pair of errors.
“(Marsh) was a good speed for us,” Roger Stella said. “She threw well, but we were just able to get her timed.”
West Virginia used two singles and two errors in the sixth to set the final score.
WARNER ROBINS 11, WEST VIRGINIA 4
Warner Robins 032-105 — 11-10-4
West Virginia 003-001 — 4-4-5
WP: Lamb; LP: Marsh.