WARNER ROBINS, Ga. -- Trying to play up to the legacy of their predecessors, who made two Little League World Series appearances in the past seven years, including one world championship, these Columubs Northern all-stars came up short.
Their 4-2 loss Saturday night to North Carolina dropped the Georgia champs to 0-2 in pool play. That means they are eliminated from title contention in the Southeast Region tournament.
But right fielder Cole Pettis offered a different definition of this team as he stared into the glare of a TV camera: "We're still winners."
And they looked on their way to a win Saturday when Austin Hicks' first-inning homer put them up 1-0.
But the boys from Myers Park Trinity Little League in Charlotte, N.C., scratched out single runs in the bottom of the first and second, aided by Northern mistakes.
In the first, a walk ended up scoring after a double and interference call at third base. In the second, two walks and two wild pitches helped produce another North Carolina run.
Noah Lee's leadoff walk in the fourth sparked Northern's rally to tie it, 2-2. Tyler Hanson pinch ran for him and ended up scoring after Joseph Crowell walked and Pettis grounded a double to center field.
North Carolina, however, answered right back in the bottom of the inning and regained the lead. This time the run scored on a pop up that dropped between fielders in short center field.
Hayden Malchesky's solo homer in the fifth gave North Carolina an insurance run.
Two sensational plays by North Carolina shorstop Patrick Alvarez spoiled potential rallies in Northern's final two at-bats.
In the fifth, Colby Brabston hustled a grounder into a hurried throw for an error. Hicks scorched a hopper up the middle that the second baseman shoveled to Alvarez, who barehanded the ball and threw to first for a double play.
"I thought the double play was huge," Northern manager Randy Morris said. "We got our lead-off guy on, and that guy could run. I thought
we were going to roll there. Austin hits a missile, but they made the play. Credit to them."
Lee doubled to center to lead off Northern's final at-bat. Anthony Torres then stroked a liner that seemed headed for left field, but Alvarez made a diving catch.
Lee advanced to third on a wild pitch with two outs, but the game ended on a groundout.
"I told them keep their heads up," Morris said. "This is Little League baseball. That's all. Don't make it any more than that or any less. They're going to face way bigger things in life than this. These kids are fine. They're down now, but five minutes from now, you won't know if they won or lost."