Carriker’s walk-off homer gives Warner Robins the title
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa – Make it three straight Little League World Series championships for the United States.
Dalton Carriker homered to right in the bottom of the eighth inning as Warner Robins, Ga., beat Tokyo 3-2 in a thrilling title game on Sunday.
The 12-year-old Carriker raised his arms in celebration after hitting a 2-1 pitch from Japan’s Junsho Kiuchi over the right-field stands. “USA! USA!” cried the Georgia-partisan crowd.
Columbus, Ga., won the crown last year, and Ewa Beach, Hawaii, in 2005.
The jubilant kids from Warner Robins hugged Carriker as he reached the plate. A relieved manager Mickey Lay lost his hat after joining his team in celebration following a tense game marked by excellent pitching.
Georgia reliever Kendall Scott struck out 10 and allowed one hit over five-plus innings to quiet Japan’s bats after Georgia fell behind 2-0 early. Zane Conlon got the last out in the top of the eighth after Scott left the game.
That set up Carriker’s game-winning homer. The slugger, hitting .769 entering Sunday’s game, was 0-for-2 with a walk when he came up in the eighth.
There was no doubt about his opposite-field shot, which easily cleared the hedges beyond the right-field fence.
After exchanging handshakes with players from Japan, Georgia players took hold of the championship banner, their proud parents snapping pictures from the stands.
Warner Robins kept the trophy in the state.
The previous two Georgia teams to advance to South Williamsport also won the title, including Columbus last year and East Marietta in 1983.
Also, the United States’ three-year title streak is the longest since 1959-1966, an eight-year stretch of American victories.
Scott struck out the side in the top of the sixth, fooling Japan hitters with his curveball. He pumped his fist as he headed to the dugout after getting Kazutaka Kato swinging, and fans waved U.S. flags in the stands.
But Georgia couldn’t come through in the bottom of the sixth inning with a runner on first and one out.
Kiuchi struck out Taylor Lay and Nick Martens to send the title game into extra innings for the first time since Hawaii beat Curacao 7-6 in seven innings in 2005.
Japan starter Ryo Kanekubo pitched three-hit ball through five innings before being pulled after reaching Little League’s 85-pitch limit.
He was buoyed by a small, but vocal fan club whose rhythmic cheers and bright red hats made them stand out in a crowd heavily favoring the Americans.
Leading 1-0, Japan added a run in the second inning after Masaya Ogino laced a bouncer up the middle that went off starter Keaton Allen with the bases loaded. The ball settled between first and second base, allowing Ryo Ogawa to trot home from third.
A sliding catch by David Umphreyville, Jr. in center ended the inning and seemed to pump up Warner Robins players as they ran excitedly off the field.
In the bottom of the second, Georgia put runners on the corners when Allen hit a high fly ball on a check swing that kept carrying over the head of center fielder Hiroki Takewaki.
The ball finally landed on the warning track, clearing the bases to tie the score at 2.
Scott then came on to settle Georgia down on the mound.