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Warner Robins (Ga.) Little League manager Mickey Lay knew that nobody gave his team a chance.
"Everybody overlooked us. You look at the paper today and all it said was 'Texas power'-- with just a little bit about Georgia."
Whichever paper Lay looks at tomorrow morning, he's likely to see far more about this underdog team from Macon who stunned the world
and prohibitive favorite Lubbock Western (Texas) Little Leaguewith a 5-2 victory in the Little League World Series U.S. championship game. The win guarantees for the second straight year a team from Georgia will play in the tournament's title game.
The offensive heroics belonged to Dalton Carriker
who bashed a home run to center and came into the game batting over .700 for the tournamentand David Umphreyville Jr. who had three hits, including a two-run single in the third that broke the game open.
But it was stellar defense in the fifth inning that sealed the victory for the Southeast regional champions. Shortstop Zane Conlon made a diving catch to his left to rob Texas of a two-out single that would have tied the game at four.
“That was one of the greatest plays I’ve seen in a shortstop,” said Lubbock Western manager Ed Thorne.
Despite the loss Thorne was unwilling to concede the best team won. When asked if he believed his team was the better team Thorne nodded and said, "Yes."
"We saw a lot better pitching in the Southwest regional than we saw here at this tournament," said Thorne. "He (Warner Robins starting pitcher Clint Wynn) didn't do anything that we didn't tell our kids he would do. We hit the ball at people. It happens in baseball "
When told of the comments Lay, who admitted he never thought his team would "get out of the state of Georgia", had a passionate response.
"Look at the scoreboard," said Lay. "I'm sorry, but we kicked some butt. They (Lubbock Western) are a good team. But you need the right chemistry at the right time to make it happen."
The chemistry reference is an interesting one. Was it a thinly veiled attack at a Lubbock Western team many consider an elite travel ball team disguised as a Little League squad? Lay left little doubt where he comes out on the topic.
"We didn't manufacture a team. We did it right. Hardly anybody on our team plays travel ball. If you've got billions and billions of dollars, you can buy a team. But there's no guarantee they'll play."
Managerial jibes aside, the game proved Warner Robins' formula of steady pitching, clutch defense and an uncanny knack for getting a timely base hit was enough to conquer a team most thought would cakewalk to the Little League World Series final. Being taken for granted is something the Georgia team is used to, in fact, it's something they relish.
"You can call us the underdog, but we love to beat you,” winning pitcher Wynn said.
Next up for Georgia: a Little League World Series final against Tokyo Kitasuna. Texas manager Thorne believes Japan will have no problem dispensing of Warner Robins in the Sunday afternoon matchup. But Lay is not interested in the predictions of a manager whose team he has just defeated.
"They lost and we're champions," said Lay. "And that's all I have to say."