WARNER ROBINS -- Kali Morton threw a two-hitter and North Carolina mustered just enough offense to knock off Georgia 2-0 in the Little League 11-12-year-old softball Southeastern Regional championship game Monday morning.
North Carolina advances to the Little League World Series in Portland, Oregon.
“To be honest, I thought we were a year away from making a serious run at winning this tournament because nine of our 13 girls are playing as league aged 11-year-olds,” said North Carolina head coach Steve Yang, whose team did not lose a game in the tournament. “Of course, every coach has a thought that his team might put everything together in a tournament, but to be quite honest, we thought we were a year away. It just shows what great pitching can do.”
Morton pitched all but one inning of the tournament and had nine strikeouts in the championship game. But Georgia’s Rylee Lamb was just as good, allowing only three North Carolina hits. North Carolina got the lead in the bottom of the first when an infield grounder could not be handled, scoring Kary Hales, who had reached on a fielder’s choice.
Georgia managed its first hit in the fourth when Ellie Williams singled to lead off the inning, but Morton retired the next three hitters to avoid damage. North Carolina threatened to open things up in the bottom half of the inning when Taylor Walton walked and moved to second on an Ellen Yang single. After a sacrifice bunt by Morton, Kaylin Dowling grounded out to second, scoring Walton. But that was all North Carolina would get off of Lamb.
Georgia showed life in the fifth. With one out Alice Thomas bunted for a hit, and Maddie Langevin followed with a walk. But Morton struck out the next two hitters to end the threat.
Georgia did have one more baserunner in the final inning when Lauren Ross walked with one out, but once again, Morton was able to retire Emma Williams and Lamb on pop-ups to the infield to end the game.
“We did a fantastic job, and I could not ask any more of these girls,” Georgia head coach Roger Stella said. “I know that they are all disappointed right now because they wanted to go to the World Series, but they accomplished something that not many girls accomplished just by making it this far. North Carolina is a very good team and we just couldn’t get anything going offensively.
“Hopefully they will go on and win it all, so we can say we lost to the champion.”