WARNER ROBINS -- The age 8 and younger All-Star kid-pitch teams had just two and a half weeks before their district tournament to learn how to pitch, steal and bunt.
Both teams from Warner Robins American Little League East and West met the challenge.
“It is truly astounding,” said Roman Jones, District 5 president.
Jones volunteered to host the district, sectional and state tournaments at a Georgia Little League meeting, and Little League Southeastern Region Director Jen Colvin told him if he hosted the tournaments, the state championship could be played on the field normally reserved for 11- and 12-year-old softball and baseball tournaments.
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Four teams participated in the district tournaments -- the East and West from WRALL and Vine Ingle Little League and Western Little League from Macon. The two teams from WRALL advanced to the Southern regional sectionals. For District 8, Columbus Northern and Pioneer advanced.
“We practiced every day,” said Jeremy Avery, manager for the West.
He said he is only focused on one game ahead and not the state game, scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday. The sectional tournament was still being played at press time.
Only a handful of players on either side know the championship game will be held at Little League Southeast Park.
“It would be cool to play in the big stadium,” Avery said last week, knowing he had two Columbus teams and another WRALL team to get through before he could walk into that venue.
Kevin Smith, manager for the East, said he couldn’t have gotten his team ready without the help of his friend of nearly 20 years, Chris Lincecum.
“We crammed four months of practice into two and a half weeks,” Smith said.
His favorite moment so far has been the way his team handled a 5-4 loss to the West in a district game. Not one of his players cried, even the boy who struck out swinging to end the game.
“It was my proudest moment,” Smith said.
He told the parents the players went from coach pitch to real baseball players that day.
“I was just blown away by how much they grew,” Smith said.