All eyes on Warner Robins, Columbus

TOCCOA — The dozen red jerseys dangle from hangers on the dugout fence. For a good half an hour before games, the stylish vests serve notice the way a flashing billboard or, say, a circus performer’s cape might.

They let it be known that the show — in this case, the gang from Warner Robins American Little League — is in town.

Of course, the players’ bats do most of the talking for them. They’ve outscored their opponents 105-12 through eight games.

But their jerseys announce their red-white-and-blue arrival best of all. They have become the envy of Georgia Little League play in recent seasons.

Along with Columbus Northern, which won the Little League World Series in 2006, a season before Warner Robins did the same, the Houston County kids are the toast of this year’s 11- and 12-year-old state tournament.

Even before their 15-0 Wednesday-afternoon, one-hit polishing off of an 0-3 Midway/Scottdale club from inner-city Atlanta, the Warner Robins reputation had long made its presence known.

“Our kids were very much in awe, seeing them here,” said manager David Wilson, who heads up the Richmond Hill team from near Savannah. “Before we came up here, the kids knew the teams in the tournament. Columbus and Warner Robins, they were talking about them, how they were gonna be playing these teams that had won the World Series.”

Randy Morris, who managed the 2006 Columbus Northern squad to Williamsport glory, is coaching this season’s team and says it’s nice to be recognized as one of the preeminent Little League programs in the state and nation. Their white-and-blue-trimmed outfits feature script Ns on their chests and caps and sport a big-league flair. Columbus and Warner Robins just look ready for business, while some other squads show up in screen-printed T-shirts. So, naturally, the other teams gun for them.

“It’s always gonna be that way with us and Warner Robins now, with us winning the World Series. ... We’re gonna be targeted now for a while. Hopefully we can keep our program up and not be a flash-in-the-pan,” Morris said.

There appears to be no worry there. Columbus and Warner Robins finished the pool-play portion of the 10-team tourney at Doyle Street Park with unblemished 4-0 records. Should the teams win their semifinal matchups today — Warner Robins plays Martinez-Evans at 8 p.m. — they will meet Friday night in a clash of recent-World Series-winning titans.

Warner Robins cruised to 4-0 in the tourney with its Wednesday dispatching of Midway/Scottdale. Cortez Broughton, Trey Maddox and Conner Smith socked home runs as Warner Robins outhit the overmatched Atlantans 10-1 in a four-inning, mercy-rule-shortened affair.

Even after such lopsided triumphs, however, the Warner Robins kids don’t dare gloat.

Ken Sato, a Warner Robins assistant coach, said, “In the stands, I’ll hear people, parents, saying things about how they come into the games against us expecting to really get beat. But there’s nobody bowing down to us. And we teach the kids not to have that arrogance, that they’re just 12-year-old kids, to be humble.”