SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa.—The Chandler National League’s memorable summer-long run came to an end Thursday night at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
Warner Robins, Ga., slammed four home runs over its final two at-bats, scoring 11 runs during that time as it defeated Chandler 16-6 in five innings in the second of two U.S. semifinals at the Little League Baseball World Series. Georgia advanced to Saturday’s U.S. championship to face Lubbock, Texas, while Chandler ended its season with a 22-3 record.
“It’s hard to accept at first,” Chandler manager Jeff Parrish said. “But when you play a good team and they out-slug you like that and out-pitch you, they deserve to go on. It just wasn’t our night.”
Chandler led 2-0 in the first inning, but Georgia scored five runs in the bottom of the frame before breaking the game open in the fourth and fifth innings. During those final two innings, Georgia hit four home runs and collected nine hits.
Georgia ended the game when Taylor Lay hit an RBI double that made the score 16-6 and inflicted the 10-run rule.
“We just went out and played our baseball game,” Georgia manager Mickey Lay said. “We’re a good hitting baseball team and were looking for this match-up and we got it and made the most of it.”
Payton Purvis ignited Georgia’s home run barrage when he hit a first-pitch, pinch-hit two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth. The ball hit the Howard J. Lamade statue that rests directly behind the centerfield fence. Dalton Carriker and Micah Wells then hit back-to-back home runs two batters later.
Purvis again sparked a rally in the fifth, hitting another two-run home run to left-center field. Purvis does not start but is 3-for-3 in his past two games with six RBIs.
“I worked hard at practice today,” Purvis said. “I guess that paid off.”
While disappointed with the loss, Chandler hardly has reason to hang its collective head. The West champions survived challenges in competitive district, state and regional tournaments before earning a spot in Thursday’s game by rallying from a 2-0 deficit and defeating Minnesota, 9-2 in Wednesday’s final pool play game.
“It’s tough because we’ve had a good run,” Parrish said. “We felt the sting of losing before, just this time we don’t get to recover. There’s not another game, there’s not another tomorrow but we have to remind those guys they battled for us. These are the guys who got us to the show.”
Chandler built its 2-0 lead courtesy of a James Zeigler RBI single and a Kyle Pechloff sacrifice fly. Zeigler homered in the fourth to pull Chandler within 5-4 but Georgia responded by hitting three home runs in the bottom of the inning.
Pechloff’s two-run home run made it 9-6 in the fifth inning, but Zane Conlon ended the rally with the tying run at the plate by recording a strikeout. It was a big out since Chandler had the top of the order due up, including Seth Fretheim, who hit three home runs during pool play.
“We needed to go and get that game over with because Arizona can come back,” Lay said. “They are a good hitting team, they’re a good, fundamental team. We were just fortunate to get some runs early and keep pushing it.”
This is the second time in four years Chandler has lost in the U.S.
semifinals to the Southeast champion.
NOTES: Chandler’s players do not have to look for learning from someone who’s dealt with tough losses. Assistant coach Clay Bellinger won two World Series rings with the New York Yankees, but also was a member of the 2001 team that lost in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Clay talked to them and told them, ‘I’ve been unsuccessful in baseball more than I’ve been successful,’” Parrish said. “He told them, ‘You have to keep battling. You have to persevere, find a way to improve yourselves.’
“These kids have accomplished enough so we’re going to shed light on their accomplishments.”
Parrish said there are activities planned for his team but that the coaches have to be careful with them. Chandler’s players have missed six weeks of school already and Parrish wants to make sure they can make a smooth transition back.
“There’s a lot of activities planned in Chandler and the state of Arizona,” he said. “We’re going to look hard at those because we don’t want anything to interfere with them assimilating back into school. They need to be able to hit the ground running.”