RICHMOND HILL, Ga. The Northern Little League All-Stars watched its lead shrink to one run in each of the final three innings, but it held on for an 8-7 victory over Warner Robins in the Georgia major baseball state championship Friday.
Warner Robins scored three times in the top of the first, but Northern rallied with two in the bottom of the first, then took the lead for good with three runs in the bottom of the third.
Warner Robins opened the top of the sixth inning with back-to-back homers to pull within one, 8-7. And Warner Robins put runners on with a double and a walk, but reliever Noah Lee worked out of the jam to preserve the win.
With the win, Northern advanced to the Southeastern Regional, which starts on Friday in Warner Robins. The regional winner will advance to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
In the bottom of the third after Lee had driven in the tying run, Zach Foster gave Northern a 4-3 lead, driving in a run with a fielders choice. Ben Sloan knocked in another run with a fielders choice for a two-run lead.
Warner Robins scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings, but Northern responded with a single run in the fourth and two in the fifth.
This is a scrappy team, Northern coach Randy Morris said. They never give up.
Warner Robins scored three runs off starter Todd Grantham in the first inning on four hits. However, the first three never left the infield.
Northern responded with a pair in the bottom of the first as Colby Brabston led off with a single and Austin Hicks and Grantham walked to load the bases. After then next two struck out, Brabston scored on a passed ball. Foster then drove in Hicks with a single to right.
After Northern had taken a 5-3 lead in the third, Warner Robins scored a single run in the top of the fourth and threatened to score more with a couple of runners on, but Foster made a diving catch in shallow right center to end the inning.
He is a great athlete, Morris said.
Northern expanded it lead to three, 8-5, with a pair of runs in the fifth. After a pair of walks and a wild pitch, Josh Evans drove in both runners.
Grantham picked up the win, going 4 2-3 innings and allowing five runs on nine hits with four strikeouts.