PORTLAND, Ore. — The pressure on Carson Carriker couldn’t have been greater when she stepped out of the batter’s box with two strikes in the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday afternoon.
Warner Robins’ second game of the Little League Softball World Series, against Central champions Croswell, Mich., at Alpenrose Stadium was tied at 4, but Warner Robins had Sabrina Doucette on third base and only one out.
Anything hit to the outfield, would mean Warner Robins was 2-0 in the tournament.
But Carriker, the team’s shortstop was unfazed as she stepped out and began tugging at her sleeves. Warner Robins manager Emily Whaley leaned out of the dugout and yelled, “You gotta get it done.”
Carriker kept adjusting her bright orange jersey and replied instantly, “I gotta look pretty first.”
Then she stepped back in and lifted a deep fly ball to right field. When it hit the ground, third-base coach Roger Stella raised a triumphant fist and Doucette limped home on a tender hip for the winning run in Warner Robins’ 5-4 victory.
It was a big win, too. Warner Robins is 2-0 with victories over two of the toughest teams in its pool. Now comes two games against traditionally weaker teams.
Warner Robins plays European champion Italy (2-1) at 3:30 p.m. today, then finishes pool play at 8 p.m. Monday against the Asia-Pacific winners from Guam (0-2).
The top two teams from each pool play in Tuesday’s semifinals. Those two winners will play in the championship game Wednesday.
So Carriker had it all on her. And she hadn’t had a particular good day. Croswell left-hander Amy Bringard had gotten Carriker out on a routine popout and a strikeout in her previous two at-bats.
Warner Robins was also reeling a little bit after cruising with a 4-1 lead into the top of the fifth inning when Croswell struck for three runs in one swing of Kylee Barrett’s bat.
“We didn’t think we had a whole lot to worry about,” Whaley said. “But it happened, and we had to adjust. We knew we had two more at-bats, and in that last inning, we had our (Nos.) 9, 1 and 2 hitters coming up.
“So yes, we were confident.”
Kelly Warner grounded out to open the final inning. Doucette hobbled to home plate on a sore hip and smacked a sinking line drive to the opposite field in right.
Croswell right fielder Alexis Frizzle went for the catch and missed, and the ball trickled past her. Doucette limped noticeably, but she made it into third base standing up.
“I don’t even remember the pitch,” Doucette said. “I just hit it and was trying to run the best I could.”
Whaley mulled over the idea of putting a fresh set of legs on third base to run for her center fielder, but, “I figured if she could hobble over there, she could hobble in, too.”
That brought up Carriker wit her senses of drama and style in place.
“I knew I was going to hit the ball somewhere,” she said. “I just wanted to do something crazy. I knew I just needed to hit the ball somewhere, anywhere.
“I would have done anything to get that run in.”
And when she did, she said, “I just smiled. It was a relief.”