All Stars magical run at World Series ends

Above, the All Stars parade in on the first day of pool play, wearing the green and yellow colors of the Northwest Little League Champions. Left, Nick Taylor slips Aidan Plummer some skin after a base hit against Urbandale, Iowa. -
Above, the All Stars parade in on the first day of pool play, wearing the green and yellow colors of the Northwest Little League Champions. Left, Nick Taylor slips Aidan Plummer some skin after a base hit against Urbandale, Iowa.
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In their final game, Mercer Island had a one-run lead for three innings at Monday’s Little League World Series Pool A contest.

William Mansfield was working his pitches well enough to keep the Warner Robins team of Georgia off-balance in the batter’s box. Mercer Island’s defense played smart enough to prevent any runs.

But in the sixth, the tempo of the game completely changed thanks to two pitches.

Georgia’s Kyle King and Jake Farrell crossed home plate on a passed ball and wild pitch, respectively, and the Southeast champions held on for a 3-2 victory in both teams’ final pool play game in South Williamsport.

Washington will stick around in Pennsylvania for some consolation games after going 0-3 in tournament play, while Georgia locks up the No. 1 seed from Pool A, advancing on to Thursday’s United States semifinal against the second seed from Pool B.

“They were every bit as strong as we expected,” Mercer Island manager Steve Stenberg said. “We thought that they would take a 20-20-20 approach with their pitching, and it kept getting better as the game went on. I’m very impressed. I think they will be contending for at least a U.S. title.”

Warner Robins, “no stranger to advancing out of the U.S. semifinals in recent years,” used five different pitchers in the game, each throwing no more than 20 pitches.

It was the exact opposite of Washington, which received a fine performance from Mansfield. He threw his limit, going five innings while scattering just six hits. He struck out six batters and gave up no walks. In the top of the sixth, his final pitch came against King as he struck the Georgia player in the foot, giving him a free pass to first and setting up the team’s rally.

“After New York, we didn’t know exactly how it was going to turn out,” Washington coach Brock Mansfield said. “He [William] had some good pitches when we played them. He was throwing [today] where it looked like he had some velocity. As a coach and a dad, I was proud to see him bounce back. I think he pitched a good game. He didn’t let the errors fluster him. He did a lot of work and was tight with every batter and was able to execute. A couple balls slipped off, but the rest of the time he kept it down and kept them off-balance.”

Georgia scored its first run in the second frame when Kal Dempsey put his cleats across home plate. After Mansfield struck out back-to-back batters, Dempsey reached on an error and was brought around by Jeremiah Stephens’ single to right. The inning ended right after catcher Aidan Plummer fired the ball to second on the same play, catching Dempsey at second for the third out.

Washington “champs of the Northwest” answered immediately in its half of the second frame.

Keegan Ogard received a walk, and Brandon Lawler smoked a double to the right-field wall, putting two on with no outs. Max Hibbert hit a grounder to second, allowing Ogard to score on the play and knot the score at 1. After new pitcher Spencer Sato got the next batter out, Sam Pugel broke the tie when he hit a liner back up the middle to give his team a 2-1 advantage.

“We say there are two different ways we tend to win, ‘shock and awe’ or ‘scratch and claw.’ [Today] was definitely scratch and claw. We have a habit of letting this happen every five or six games,” Georgia manager Randy Jones said of his team’s play. “What happened was the word got out that we clinched the No. 1 seed. I had kids coming up to me asking if we could use wood bats and if we could bat left-handed. Last night, we had a little meeting, and apparently, we didn’t quite get things straightened out.

I think when you win a game like that, you learn a lot more than when you win by 10 runs.”

Warner Robins had a hit in the third and two in the fourth, but was unable to send any runners to home plate. Two errors by Mercer Island in the fifth put Georgia players on the bags, but the score remained the same.

Washington had a chance at sending the game into extra frames in the bottom of the sixth, as Ogard, who was hit by a Cortez Broughton offering, reached third on a passed ball and wild pitch. With two outs on the board, and Broughton’s arm the strongest Washington had seen all day, the 12-year-old struck out the final batter to end the game.

“It’s not just having that one guy that can throw 75-plus pitches. Like what you saw [today], Georgia is an example of what you have to have,” Brock Mansfield said. “They have guys that throw strikes and guys that pound the zone. They went five deep, and the last guy, I don’t know what he was throwing, but he was the hardest guy of the day. We came here with four guys that can throw upper 60s, and one or two guys that can throw in the 70s, and we thought we were doing pretty good.”

Mercer Island, in only its fourth year of existence, got both of its hits from Lawler and Pugel. Georgia had eight hits total, with Blake Jackson and Justin Jones going a combined 5-for-8 in the game. “We scouted them and watched a lot of video, and we thought they were a little bit weak on the curveball, as are other teams here,” Stenberg said. “That was our approach, [to throw the curveball]. We were happy with the result and thought it was very effective. They made adjustments, so we were a little concerned about the third time through the lineup. All in all, we thought we kept them in check. We need to get more than two hits and score more than two runs.

“Did any of us expect to be here? No chance. I didn’t expect to be in Williamsport the last week of August. So, it’s been a great ride.”

Warner Robins, Ga., 3;

Mercer Island, Wash., 2

123 456 RHE

GA: 010 002 3 8 0

WA: 020 000 2 2 3

GA: Blake Jackson, Spencer Sato (2), Connor Smith (3), Hunter Phillips (4) and. Cortez Broughton (6). WA: William Mansfield, Brandon Lawler (6) and Max Hibbert (6). WP: Phillips (1-0). LP: Lawler (0-1). 2B: GE, Lawler. Multiple Hits: GE, Jackson 3, Justin Jones 2. Pool records: GE 3-0, WA 0-3.

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