After two years of working with many of the same players at a lower level, Northern Little League coach Randy Morris is back in Little League Majors Georgia state tournament.
And that could be trouble for the rest of the state.
In 2006, a Morris-coached Northern team won the Little League World Series. In 2010, his team won the Southeast Regional and competed in the World Series.
After the 2010 success, Morris took a 10-year-old all-star team in 2011. They did not get out of the district. Last year, as 11 year olds, they won the state title and lost in the regional semifinals.
They walked out of the District 8 tournament without a loss and open state tournament play at 10 a.m. today against Newton County. The winner of the state tournament in Savannah will advance to the Southeast Regional next month in Warner Robins where a berth in the Little League World Series will be on the line.
"We have gotten a lot better since we were 10," Morris said this week. "We have improved. The kids are bigger and stronger. This group played extremely well as 11 year olds."
Morris is optimistic about this team having a chance to win the state title and make a run deep into the Little League tournament. And the reason for that is pitching. The Northern team has four solid pitchers, Morris said.
"I think we have good pitching, and I think we have an outside shot," Morris said.
Right-hander Colby Brabston was outstanding in the district tournament. He got a save in the first win over rival American and threw a no-hitter against American in a 2-1 championship game victory. "He has great control," Morris said.
Trenton Grantham, right-handed power pitcher, and Noah Lee, a left-hander, have been consistent. The fourth pitcher is Austin Hicks. Also a catcher, Hicks is the younger brother of Blake Hicks, who was a catcher and key player on the 2010 Norther team.
"The thing that I worry about is our hitting," Morris said. "We are not as great hitting team. Now, we have some good hitters, but we have to be more consistent. We have got to be able to roll the ball and put it in play with men on base."
The remainder of the Northern roster includes Parker Brabston, Joseph Crowell, Josh Evans, Zachary Foster, Tyler Hanson, Cole Pettis, Anna Runyon and Benjamin Sloan. The assistant coaches are Donnie Coulter and Cam Willis.
This year's tournament also includes Warner Robins American. Since 2006, the Georgia state champion has come from Columbus or Warner Robins, which has won two Little League World Series titles in that stretch. Northern and Warner Robins are in opposite pools and would only play in the semifinals or final.