WARNER ROBINS -- It did not take long to figure out how good Georgia would have to be to pick up a win Sunday against Virginia in the Little League Softball Southeastern Regional tournament.
Riley Dull, the Virginia pitcher, struck out two of the three hitters she faced in the first inning en route to a 12-strikeout performance.
But, thanks to some strong pitching from Emma Williams, Georgia maintained a scoreless tie through seven innings before Georgia plated a run in the top of the eighth inning, the only run scored in a 1-0 Georgia victory.
Georgia had to play again two hours later, but that game was almost anti-climactic. Georgia coasted past Tennessee for a 10-0 win and a spot in Monday’s 10 a.m. single-elimination title contest against North Carolina.
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At stake Monday at Little League Southeast Park will be a spot in the Little League Softball World Series, scheduled for Aug. 13-19 in Portland, Oregon.
“The Virginia pitcher was the hardest thrower we have seen all year, and when she struck me out in the first inning it was like, ‘OK, I have got to have a great game,’ ” said Williams, who struck out eight and did not walk a batter. “I never got tired because I was so pumped up, and I just wanted to do this for my team. I knew that we would score a run soon.”
That run came home in the eighth. Raegan Stella led off with a line drive toward the third baseman, who jumped up and knocked the ball down but could not throw out the speedy Stella, who was aware enough to advance to second on an errant throw. Jenna Thomas laid down a perfect bunt to get Stella to third, and Ellie Williams hit a deep fly to center to score Stella.
Emma Williams struck out two of the three batters she faced in the final inning.
“I wanted to make sure I hit the ball to the right side of the infield or get the ball into the outfield,” Ellie Williams said of her sacrifice fly. “I was just so happy when I saw that I hit it deep enough to score Raegan because I knew Emma (Ellie’s twin sister) was not going to let them score. Emma was lights out (Sunday), and that is probably the best I have ever seen her pitch.”
The second game was drama-free, as Georgia scored a pair of runs in the first on a two-out double by Taylor Corley before scoring seven runs in the third against the team that put them in the elimination bracket. Olivia Brown had a huge two-run single with two out, and Ellie Williams cleared the bases with a three-run triple to put the game away.
Rylee Lamb held Tennessee to three hits, while Corley and Ellie Williams each had three RBI.
“I have never had a doubt about this team making it to the final game, “Georgia head coach Roger Stella said. “We know the first game would be very tough against a great pitcher, but we felt like if we could score one we could win with Emma on the mound. After we got by that game, we were just relaxed and got off to a great start.
“I haven’t seen North Carolina play, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”