Late rally lifts Georgia past Alabama

WARNER ROBINS — Finally, it appeared the offense and defense missing for Alabama in the first game of the Little League Baseball Southeastern Region Tournament on Saturday showed up a day later.

Then, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and a four-run lead, the defense fell apart, and Georgia made sure the mistakes were costly.

Georgia scored four runs to tie it in the fifth and then got a two-out game-winning single from Cason Sizemore to edge Alabama 8-7 Sunday in regional pool play action.

Alabama plays South Carolina at 1 p.m. on Monday while Georgia battles North Carolina in the day’s finale at 7 p.m.

It’ll take Alabama manager Tom Davis some work to get his players’ spirits up after a second one-run loss in as many days. On the other hand, Georgia manager Randy Morris now has a team on a roll and with an offense that finally got moving.

“We tried to take things one bat at at time,” he said. “See what happens. You never know. You’re always in it until the last out.”

Sizemore didn’t start but went 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs.

“I was nervous in my first at-bat,” Sizemore said. “After I got that hit, I came back in my second at-bat and I wasn’t really that nervous. By third at-bat, I was a little nervous, but I was pretty confident.”

Plenty happened in the fifth and sixth for that final at-bat to become so big.

Alabama put together four hits and took advantage of an error, a passed ball and a walk to bat around and score six in the top of the fifth for a 7-3 lead.

“We brought the sticks out (Sunday),” said Davis, whose team had 13 hits. “The guys were fired up, but we thought we should’ve scored more runs.”

Morris talked to his players after Alabama’s surge.

“I just challenged them,” he said. “I said, ‘Guys, you can lay down and roll over or you can take this thing one bat at a time. We still haven’t hit like we can.’ ”

Whitt Davis took over on the mound for Alabama in the bottom of the fifth and promptly gave up a monster homer to Knox Carter to open the inning. Kobie Buglioli followed with a single, but Alabama got two quick outs.

Then the defense went south.

Shortstop Luke Beasley was low on a throw on a routine grounder, and then he and second baseman Colton Schultz failed to communicate on what should have been an inning-ending force at second. Instead, Jack Copley reached second safely and Sizemore made it to first, and the inning remained alive.

“We got the ground balls,” Tom Davis said. “We should have been out of the inning.”

Blake Hicks singled in a run, Jacob Pate was intentionally walked, and winning pitcher Brandon Pugh added another run with a single. Alabama finally got the final out but had watched a 7-3 lead turn into a momentum-changing tie.

“Knox’s home run, that was huge,” Morris said. “That happened, and it kinda set the tone. We kind of fed off that some.”

Alabama went down in order in the sixth and almost survived the bottom of the sixth. Troy Gilliland singled with one out, and then pitcher Jake Christa’s throw to second on a grounder was wide. Gilliland misread the play and headed for third, where he was easily thrown out.

Copley singled, pushing Jack Tanner — who hit the grounder to Christa — to second. Sizemore then slapped a grounder between first and second, allowing Tanner to score the game-winner.

“That’s the thing with this team, everybody on this team contributes,” Morris said. “Cason responded every time he got to bat.”

Early action

Georgia scored one in the second on an infield single, fielder’s choice and throwing error. Alabama responded in the top of the third on a walk, grounder, and Richard Constantine’s double the right field line. Daniel Wright was then hit by a pitch, but Alabama left the bases loaded.

And the pitching duel resumed with both starters settled in until Georgia’s Zac Cravens came down with arm trouble with two outs and one on in the fourth, giving way to third baseman Buglioli.

Buglioli got some defensive help to get out of the inning immediately. Schultz blooped a single to short right-center, and Beasley reached third easily. Then thinking Georgia was too slow on defense, Beasley headed home, but was easily out on the relay from shortstop Brandon Pugh.

Georgia, still being outhit, took the lead back with two in the fourth.

Jack Tanner reached on a fielder’s choice, advanced on a passed ball and another grounder, then strolled in on pinch-hitter Sizemore’s single to center. Hicks singled, and Pate drove in Sizemore with a single for a 3-1 lead.

Alabama seemed to take over in the fifth.

Whitt Davis reached on an infield single, Cole Prestegard on an error and Constantine on a walk to open the fifth.

Wright promptly tied it up with a two-run single to center, and then Logan Storey, after going down 0-2 and fouling off three pitches, slapped a run-scoring single to right for a 4-3 lead, still with no outs.

Starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft extended the lead by yanking a two-run single past the short infield into right. Christa reached on an infield single and Schultz finished the scoring with an RBI double.

“I think most of the team was worried,” Sizemore said. “I know I was.”

He took care of that soon enough.


Alabama 001-060— 7-13-4

Georgia 010-241 — 8-13-1

WP: Brandon Pugh. LP: Jake Christa.

2B: AL — Colton Schutlz, Richard Constantine; GA — Blake Hicks.

HR: GA — Knox Carter.