CARTERSVILLE — Warner Robins put on displays of power and offense throughout the Little League 11-12-year-old state tournament.
There wasn’t much of either in the semifinal, but there was enough.
Trey Odom and Logan Arnett belted homers and Jacob Giles threw four-plus solid innings as Warner Robins held off East Marietta 7-3 on Thursday night to advance to the state tournament final.
Warner Robins will play Columbus American at 7 p.m. in the championship. Columbus American, which has rolled through the tournament, as well, struggled for a 4-2 win over Madison County in the semifinal.
Columbus had outscored its first four opponents 46-8 to Warner Robins’ 55-7.
So this finale should be a showdown between the cities used to postseason success, and it can’t get any weirder for Warner Robins, which survived having a home run erased for hitting from outside the batter’s box and one batter later having a runner at second called out for an improper slide.
“Yes it was,” Warner Robins manager Phillip Johnson said about whether this was the most unusual game his team has played in the postseason. “No question, it definitely was.”
It was also Warner Robins’ worst offensive night of the state tournament.
“That was the best pitching,” Johnson said. “I have to hand it to East Marietta. Their first pitcher was awesome, did a great job keeping them off balance.”
East Marietta’s Jason Rooks couldn’t find the zone in the first inning and walked three, but Warner Robins wasn’t making much contact.
Warner Robins sent seven batters to the plate only to manage a lone run, thanks to an error at second. Rooks found a groove and struck out three straight, carrying over into the second. That’s when Warner Robins’ offense started doing something with Rooks’ best pitches.
Arnett reached on a fielder’s choice and Jake Fromm walked. Then Odom sent the first pitch over the wall in dead center and Warner Robins had a 4-0 lead.
East Marietta stormed back, taking advantage of Giles giving up two walks to start the bottom of the second.
Gabe Magerkurth doubled in a run down the right field, and another came in on a groundout. Jack Brinsman’s long single to left-center scored a run to a run and cut the margin to 4-3.
Warner Robins rallied with two outs in the third and in the process ended Rooks’ night.
“We got (Rooks) up in the pitch count early,” Johnson said. “I knew that was a good thing, but then they brought in the other kid (Jack Hardin) who kept us off balance with offspeed, did a fantastic job.”
Logan Fink walked, and Dillon Toms lifted a fly down the right-field line that was dropped, putting runners on second and third.
On came Hardin to pitch for East Marietta. Arnett’s grounder went off Hardin, allowing Fink to score. Shortstop Magerkurth overthrew first — Arnett appeared to beat the throw, and Toms kept coming and barely slid under the tag for a 6-3 lead.
Meanwhile, Giles settled back down after the rough second inning, giving up a lone walk in the third and fourth.
Warner Robins’ Logan Morris opened the fifth with a solo homer to left-center but was called out for apparently hitting the ball while outside of the batter’s box.
“I’ve seen baseball for a long, long time,” Johnson said. “I’ve never, ever seen anybody call that on a home run.”
Then Fink singled but was called out at second after a wild pitch for an improper hands-first slide.
“It was a drag slide, that’s legal to do,” Johnson said. “They called him out for that.”
East Marietta’s Noah Cole opened the bottom of the fifth with a shot down the third-base line. The base umpire called it foul and the home plate umpire called it fair.
After a meeting, it was ruled foul, and Cole’s double was erased, but he bounced back with a single to left, and Rooks followed with the same. A bobble in the outfield on the play put runners on second and third, and that was it for Giles.
On came Fromm in a no-out, two-on situation. And he got two strikeouts — both on called third strikes — and a grounder to second to end the threat in nine pitches and return the momentum to his dugout.
Arnett kept it going in the sixth by belting a first-pitch homer to center for a 7-3 lead. Then Odom came on with one out and one on in the sixth and surrendered another single before getting Cole on a grounder to third.
“Everybody is doing a role,” Johnson said. “They’re doing a great job. That’s what I’m so proud of.”