These are the kind of kids who probably wait until the last minute to do their homework.
For the third time in three games, the Northern Little League all-stars waited until the late innings to rally for a win in the Southeast Regional.
Columbus Northern, the Georgia state champion, broke loose for seven runs in the fifth inning of a 9-3 semifinal win over the West Virginia champion from Ripley.
Believe it or not, Northern is now one win from the regional title and a trip to Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series.
Northern manager Randy Morris doesn’t like all of the drama, but he isn’t complaining.
“For whatever reason we are doing it,” Morris said. “So far, so good.”
Nothing has come easy this week for Northern.
The team took a 2-1 win over South Carolina in the Saturday opener.
Sunday, Northern rallied from a four-run deficit to win 8-7 over Alabama. Then Monday, Northern had to rally for two runs in the sixth inning and five in the seventh to beat North Carolina, 7-3 in an extra inning.
It was more of the same Wednesday in a game that was televised nationally on ESPN2.
Northern trailed 3-2 with six outs to go.
No worries for this edition of the cardiac kids.
Catcher and leadoff hitter Blake Hicks ripped a home run over fence in right-center field in this sparkling new stadium.
Then the flood gates opened for six more runs and what the boxscore shows as a comfortable win.
Sometimes, boxscores lie.
“This is a trend, and I am not really crazy about it,” Morris said.
What the manager is crazy about is the way things set up for Northern Friday night against Florida in the final.
Northern ace Jacob Pate, who shut down West Virginia for two innings and the win Wednesday, will be available against Florida, which has been the most dominant team all week.
“We got our No. 1 guy, and he’s got 85 pitches,” Morris said.
Because of Troy Gilliand’s solid four innings of work against West Virginia, Morris has three other strong pitchers — Hicks, Brandon Pugh and Kobie Buglioli — available with no pitch-count limitations.
Morris called Florida “a great hitting team.”
But then he smiled.
“We’ll go out there and see what happens,” he said.
After Wednesday afternoon’s work was done in the sweltering 100-degree weather, Morris gathered his team on a hillside down the third-base line.
Bat bags were scattered as the players congregated around their coach.
They listened, because they know he has been where they want to go. Four years ago, Morris led Northern to the Little League World Series title.
“We are in good position,” Morris told his team. “We are where we want to be — playing in the championship game.”
No doubt about that.
Then Morris added this little gem:
“You can’t do much better than that,” he said, flashing a winner’s smile.
That is where the coach may be a little off base.
They can do better. Win Friday night in front of the ESPN cameras, and this scrappy bunch of Little Leaguers is on the way to Williamsport.
Now, coach, you can’t do much better than that.