WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - There was a hint, as slight as it may sound, that Saturday night’s Little League World Series game might go well for Warner Robins.
Half an hour before the first pitch, while northern-Alabama native and Warner Robins manager Mickey Lay socked balls during infield warmups, “Sweet Home Alabama” played on the Lamade Stadium P.A. system.
So much for omens.
After a local grade-school violinist played the national anthem on the pitcher’s mound, the Great Lakes starter didn’t fiddle around.
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Dealing a virtuoso’s blend of off-speed pitches, Ohio’s Tyler Richards’ finely tuned curveball miffed Warner Robins batters all night.
Richards struck out nine and walked just two, facing just five batters above the minimum in a 10-2 win.
“His stuff was working,” Lay said. “He worked the corners, he worked everything. Anything he threw, they had us guessing all night long.”
After a day off today, Warner Robins (1-1) plays New England on Monday.
The loss, before a crowd of 19,400, was the Georgia all-star team’s first in 17 tournament games this season.
“We got our butts whipped, that’s all can really say about it,” Lay said. “They wore our butts out.”
Looking on from the first-base stands, Warner Robins American president Roman Jones said, “It’s gonna be tough for these boys just because they’ve won 16 in a row, and the first loss comes on this stage. But they’ll be back Monday.”
After the game, Lay said, “You’ve got to lose some time. We got beat by a better team (Saturday), that’s the bottom line. Those kids were doing everything they needed to do. We got outcoached, we got outplayed, we got outhustled, we got out-everything.
“One thing 11- and 12-year-olds have to learn is that nothing is given to them, you have to earn it. ... I’m not down on our kids. I think it’s a very good lesson they’ve learned. I think they’ll be OK.”
In the first inning, Warner Robins hurler Kendall Scott was a strike away from striking out the side. But with a runner at second, the Ohio team’s cleanup man lined an RBI single to center for a 1-0 lead.
Warner Robins answered in the bottom of the first. With one on and two out, Micah Wells unloaded on an inside pitch, crushing a two-run laser over the 225-foot mark and into the shrubs beyond the wall in left field.
“I knew it was gone,” his mom, Gina Wells, said.
Wells was moved into the cleanup slot after batting at the bottom of the Warner Robins order and going 2-for-3 in Friday’s 9-4 win over the Northwest team.
“I know they got new bats when they got here,” Gina Wells said. “He’s been telling me how much he loves that new bat.”
Lay said Wells is “hot again, and that’s good.”
After Scott retired the Great Lakes squad in order in the second, he ran into trouble an inning later.
Ohio’s leadoff man singled and scored on a wild throw to first. With one on and one out, Ohio’s cleanup hitter bombed a homer to center to make it 4-2.
In the bottom of the third, Warner Robins got a leadoff single to center by Hunter Jackson. But after a pair of fielder’s choices, shortstop Dalton Carriker was called out at first after a pickoff throw by the Ohio catcher, ending the inning.
Great Lakes tacked on two runs in the fourth to go on top 6-2. Lay said Scott “left pitches up a little bit.”
Warner Robins’ Zane Conlon, who came on in relief of Scott with the bases full and nobody out in the fourth, struck out six of the first eight batters he faced, allowing just two hits.
After Conlon fanned the Ohioans in order in the fifth, he whiffed the first two in the sixth before surrendering four runs to make it 10-2.
“Zane shut them down,” Lay said. “I was very proud of the way he threw. He threw 54 pitches, and most of them were strikes. That’s probably the best he’s pitched in tournament play.”