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Every kid dreams of winning the World Series with a walk-off home run. Georgia slugger Dalton Carriker got the chance to do it at the Little League World Series.
With a dramatic opposite-field blast in the bottom of the eighth inning, Carriker led his Warner Robins Little League team to an improbable 3-2 win over Tokyo Kitasuna to claim a second straight Little League World Series title for the state of Georgia.
The loose and carefree team from Macon came into the tournament as a heavy underdog. Having already defeated tournament powerhouses Lubbock Western and Chandler National, Georgia employed the same formula that got them through the tournament in their championship final win over Japan--stick around long enough and something just might happen.
"We went into this the same as game one," said Warner Robins manager Mickey Lay. "Go out, have fun, hit the ball and run the bases. Hopefully everything would work out and it did today."
Despite the fact that most of Georgia's home runs in the tournament were to right field, Japan's strategy was to pound the ball on the outside corner and make the Georgia hitters chase. And it worked... for seven innings. But in the bottom of the eighth, with the score tied 2-2, Japan's Junsho Kiuchi threw an off-speed speed pitch to Carriker that caught too much of the plate.
"I was looking for a fastball but he threw me a curveball," said Carriker. "I just kept my weight back and drove it to right field. Right off the bat I pretty much knew it was out of there."
Overcome with emotion, Carriker almost didn't make it to home plate during his home run trot.
"Around the bases I was thinking I just hit a walkoff home run to win the Little League World Series," said Carriker. "And I almost fainted right there."
Still, there would have been no end-of-the-game heroics without the stellar pitching of Kendall Scott. With a devastating curveball that danced around the plate, Scott allowed just one hit over 5 2/3 while striking out 10. Though not for a lack of effort on the part of Japan to rattle Scott.
"I think they (Japan) were trying to intimidate me by screaming or something," said Scott. "So I gave them a dead look and threw the ball and they just couldn't hit it."
Any gamesmanship on the part of Japan was quickly forgotten as Georgia players helped console players from Japan who were in obvious emotional distress at the conclusion of the game.
"We knew the Japanese team pretty well," said Carriker. "They're some of the nicest kids you'll ever meet. Just seeing them fall down and cry, you just couldn't let them do that. You just had to pick them up."
A sentiment that Carl E. Stotz
the man who created Little League some 70 years ago in the small town of Williamsport, Pennsylvaniawould certainly have approved of.
Three is the Magic Number
Maybe Warner Robins manager Mickey Lay is right. There is something in the water down in Georgia.
Three teams from Georgia have reached the Little League World Series and each time that team has gone on to win the title. In addition to last year's winner Columbus Northern Little League, National Little League from East Marietta beat the Dominican Republic in 1983 3-1 to give the Peach State its first Little League champion.
This year's victory puts Georgia fifth among U.S. states for most Little League World Series championships, just ahead of New York and Texas who have two a piece. California is still the leader with five Little League World Series titles--the last being Sean Burroughs' Long Beach team in 1993.