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August 29, 2006

 

Columbus kids rule the world

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Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster
Columbus, Ga., second baseman Josh Lester tags out Kawaguchi City, Japan, base runner Ryota Koike in the sixth inning for the final out to defeat Japan 2-1 in the Little League World Series Championship Monday at Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa.

By GENARO C. ARMAS
Associated Press Writer

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — With his team clinging to a one-run lead and pitcher Kyle Carter in a jam, Columbus, Ga. manager Randy Morris visited the mound to give his ace a pep talk.
A Little League World Series championship hung in the balance. Carter didn’t disappoint.
After walking one batter to lead off the inning and hitting another with two outs, Carter got Ryoya Sato to bounce weakly to second to end the game and secure Columbus’ 2-1 win over Kawaguchi City, Japan to win the Little League crown.
The chants of “USA! USA!” spread through the crowd after the kids from Columbus threw their gloves toward the sky and celebrated the second straight Little League title for an American team.
“I just had a shot of adrenaline on the mound,” Carter said about the decisive sixth. “I just had to throw the ball how I usually do and we’d win the world championship.”
Carter struck out 11 and Cody Walker hit a two-run homer off Japan ace Go Matsumoto for Columbus. Their victory came a year after Ewa Beach, Hawaii beat a squad from Willemstad, Curacao for the championship.
A U.S. team hadn’t won back-to-back Little League titles with different teams since 1982-83 when Kirkland, Wash., and Marietta, Ga., celebrated in South Williamsport. That Marietta team was the only other club from Georgia to make it to the tournament.
“That is pretty awesome,” Morris said. “We’ve been here twice and won it twice, so maybe we should try this more.”
Long Beach, Calif., was a repeat champion in 1992-93, though the first victory was awarded after a Philippines squad was stripped of the title for using over-age players.
Leading 2-1, the game looked in question after Carter got a little wild in the sixth. He walked the leadoff hitter on four pitches, struck out the next hitters but then hit Ryota Koike with two outs to put runners on first and second for Sato, who had already hit a homer in the series.
Morris came to the mound.
“I didn’t think he was losing it or anything,” Morris said. “I just went out to him to tell to take a deep breath, and don’t let up.”
The Georgia-leaning crowd erupted in cheers after Carter got the bouncer to end the game. They chanted “USA! USA!” and waved American flags and Columbus players skipped to the middle of the field in celebration, tossing their gloves to the sky.
Then they posed on the mound for a group picture with a banner that proclaimed them “World Series Champions.”
Kawaguchi City manager Shigeru Hidaka called Carter’s performance “fantastic.”
“His curveball was right on,” Hidaka said through an interpreter. “He pitched a great game.”
Just 13, Matsumoto was pretty good too on the mound for Japan, except for Walker’s shot in the third inning that followed a baserunning blunder. Matsumoto finished with nine strikeouts.
Carter took off from first on Josh Lester’s single to center but didn’t heed the stop sign thrown by Morris at third. Carter was nailed at home for the second out, sliding into the catcher’s shin guards well short of the plate.
It didn’t matter, because Walker then hit his opposite-field shot over the right field fence for Columbus’ only two runs.
“It feels great,” Walker said with_a grin.
Lester pumped his fist as he rounded third, and Morris got so excited as Walker circled the bases that his hat fell off. Jubilant teammates greeted Walker at the plate.
“All year, we have found a deep strength. When he hit the home run, I think we thought we would still win,” Hidaka said. “We have come back before, and the kids thought we would come back again.”
It wasn’t to be. A sign in the Columbus cheering section read, “Georgia, Not Just Peaches.” Now, it’s also home to the best team in Little League baseball.
After the game, the players picked up fistfuls of dirt and placed them in plastic bags as keepsakes. Carter found his father, coach Richard Carter, and gave him a hug.
“He told me I did a great job,” Kyle said.
Japan, the international champions used small ball to score their only run in the top of the third.
Yada hit a one-out bouncer into center. Pinch-hitter Yusuke Inuzuka missed on two bunt attempts but advanced Yada to second with a slow grounder down the third-base line.
Matsumoto followed with a high chopper up the middle that drove in Yada.
Rain forced the title game to be pushed back from Sunday, and organizers then moved the starting time ahead Monday by three hours after weather forecasts showed another chance of rain in the evening.
The title game had been rescheduled just once before, in 1990, when rain forced San-Hua, Chinese Taipei, and Shippensburg, Pa., to play one day later than scheduled. Chinese Taipei won 9-0.

 

 

Purple Tigers look to repeat as champs

By TANEY BEAUMONT
Staff Writer

The Cortland High golf team rolled through the newly-aligned OHSL Freedom Division I schedule with ease last fall, winning all eight of its matches en route to a 17-1 overall record.
Some players are going to have to step up for the success to continue, according to Purple Tigers coach Kevin Cafararo, whose team opens the season Thursday against Chittenango at Rogues Roost . Wednesday’s slated opener against East Syracuse-Minoa Orange at Cortland Country Club was pushed back to Sept. 7 at ES-M’s request.
“I need consistency from our top three and have to have kids step up into four, five and six (scoring spots) for me,” he said. “Chris Pace (sophomore) started and had some experience last year before he injured his finger in the first third of the season, so we look to be four deep, needing a five and a six.
“Mike Congdon (freshman), Steve Stowell (junior), Nate West (sophomore), Ryan Wanish (sophomore) and Chris Yamamoto (sophomore) are all players who could step up and do that.”
The top three veterans Cafararo mentioned are sophomore Matt Porter, classmate Brandon Fitzgerald and junior Nick Decker. Porter was a state meet competitor in 2004 and an alternate last spring (when the sectional and state meets are held) and Fitzgerald was named the Coaches’ Award winner in 2005. Both players were all-league selections, while Decker was an honorable mention all-star.

 

 

Trojans still have youth on their side

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

When Homer Central entertains Phoenix Wednesday morning at Cortland Country Club, year two of a rebuilding process will continue for Trojan coach Gary Wilcox.
The Trojans are coming off a 5-13 record in OHSL Freedom Division and overall play in 2005.
“We are still a very young team,” said Wilcox, who enters his 21st year as the Trojans’ head coach. “We do have nine players returning, but we are still predominately a sophomore team.
“It really is still a rebuilding season for us, but we will have a lot of playing time for everyone because there are only fifteen kids on the team. There are nine returnees that have gotten more experience because they did play last year.”
Nick Saraceno, Ian Gutchess and Mike Freeman are returning seniors, but only Saraceno saw action in a majority of the varsity matches.
Also returning is junior Lane Hopkins and eighth-grader Brad Mitchell, along with sophomores Andy Saraceno, Dan Miller, Greg Eves and Molly Nulty. Hopkins, Saraceno, Miller, Eves and Nulty all saw a number of varsity rounds in 2005, but are still young.
Newcomers in 2006 six included senior Matt McIntyre, junior Trevor Caughey, sophomore Nathan St. John and the freshmen trio of Alex Nelson, Alex Guy and Greg Richards.