Warner Robins has produced champions in the past -- winners on the highest of stages on the Little League circuit: the World Series.
After winning the District 5 championship July 1 against Vine Ingle, the 11-12-year-old Warner Robins American Little League West team will seek to emulate the 2009 Warner Robins team’s title run in order to bring another title back home.
The next step in the process will be the state tournament, which features nine teams in a double-elimination format, starting Saturday in Athens. That follows a dominant showing at the district level, where Warner Robins West outscored its opponents 40-11.
“Our district is very tough,” said Mike Davis, the Warner Robins East manager, before the district tournament. “If we win the district, we probably have a really good shot at winning the state.”
Even though Davis’ team did not win the tournament, his comment speaks volumes of the level of play in District 5. And Warner Robins West ran through the competition in dominant fashion.
In round one, the team defeated Vine Ingle 14-4; round two featured another double-digit victory, beating Davis’ Warner Robins East squad 16-5 in the process. In the final, after being tied at 2 for most of the game, Warner Robins West scored eight straight runs down the stretch to take down Vine Ingle, once again, 10-2.
“I’m just proud of how they came together and played as a team,” Warner Robins West manager Scot Ethridge said. “We trailed several times in the tournament, but you could never see a lack of focus or a kind of defeat in the team’s eyes. They battled back; every time they got behind they battled their way back out.”
The team often trailed early in the game and battled its way out of the deficit after forcing the opposing team’s starting pitcher to exit the game.
“I feel like we faced the best pitching the other teams had to offer,” Ethridge said. “So, the games were kind of close until usually the third of fourth inning, when we got past their starting pitcher -- we kept the game close through that -- and then we were able to open it up a little bit.”
Ethridge spoke highly of his team’s patience at the plate, its ability to foul the ball off and raise the starting pitchers’ pitch count early in the contest. Once Warner Robins West reached a team’s reliever, the hitting barrage began.
“They even had some fans comment, ‘We saw their faces, and their expressions never changed,’ ” Ethridge said. “They seemed happy, they seemed confident and just went after it.”
And even though the team composed a victory at district, the composure will become increasingly important as it progresses through the state tournament and if possbile, the region tournament and the World Series.
The district’s level of competition will prepare Warner Robins West for the difficulties at the state level.
“It’s kind of a one game-at-a-time approach; that’s what we took through district, and that’s what we’re going to take here,” Ethridge said. “You know the competition is only going to get tougher even though I felt like we came out of a really tough district.”
The team’s roster is made up of Gage Harrelson, Jeremy White, Blake Ethridge, Mason Morris, Jackson Nipper, Justin Thigpen, Coleman Willis, Scott Rhodes, Christian Davis, Carter Fink, Colby Million, Walker Young and Christopher Dowell
“We tell our guys, ‘Let’s go out and win every baseball game one inning at a time, and we’ll be successful,’ “ Ethridge said.