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Georgia kids do it again
Walk-off homer makes Warner Robins 2007 LLWS champs as they top Tokyo 3-2
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Warner Robins, Georgia's Dalton Carriker rounds second after hitting a walk-off solo homer in the eighth inning against Tokyo, Japan in Little League World Series Championship baseball game in South Williamsport, Pa. Sunday. Georgia won 3-2. - photo by Associated Press
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Dalton Carriker couldn’t feel his legs as he rounded the bases. His home run in the bottom of the eighth had just given Warner Robins, Ga., a thrilling 3-2 victory over Tokyo to win the Little League World Series title. ‘‘I felt like I was flying, like Peter Pan,’’ Carriker said. ‘‘I didn’t know what I was doing.’’ Adrenaline took over from there, said the 12-year-old slugger with braces. His dramatic home run over the right-field wall off a 2-1 pitch from Japan’s Junsho Kiuchi gave the United States three straight Little League championships. ‘‘USA! USA!’’ cried the Georgia-partisan crowd as dozens of fans waved American flags. Columbus, Ga., won the crown last year, and Ewa Beach, Hawaii, in 2005. ‘‘They’re not greedy kids,’’ relieved manager Mickey Lay said. ‘‘They just enjoy playing the game. That’s something that we miss sometimes.’’ They sure had fun after Carriker’s homer. The jubilant players from Warner Robins hugged him as he reached the plate. 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. Scott, 12, had watched Japan’s impressive hitters throughout the tournament. ‘‘Going out there today, throwing the ball, I was scared to death on the first pitch,’’ he said. Scott left the game in the top of the eighth, with Zane Conlon getting the last out. 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. He said a little prayer before settling himself in the batter’s box. ‘‘God, please give me the strength to get a hit and help my team out,’’ Carriker said in recounting his prayer. There was no doubt about his opposite-field shot off Kiuchi, which easily cleared the right-field fence 225 feet away from the plate. Japan manager Youichi Kubo, who managed Japan to the 2001 Little League crown, tried to console his pitcher afterward. ‘‘I told Junsho that when you are a reliever these things can happen,’’ Kubo said through a translator. ‘‘I told him that he has a bright future and not to let this homer affect that.’’ 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. ‘‘I’ll remember every second of this,’’ Carriker said. ‘‘This has been crazy.’’ 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. 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. It didn’t prevent Japan from reaching out to Georgia. Before the game, the team gave Warner Robins a listing of the players’ names and addresses so they could keep in touch, Lay said. ‘‘I don’t believe we’ll ever forget this moment. The sadness on their faces and the joy on ours,’’ Lay said. ‘‘But we’re trying to let them know there’s no shame in what happened today.’’