Perno, Morris met in 2006, when Morris guided that edition of Columbus Northern all-stars to the Little League World Series title
By CHUCK WILLIAMS
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Columbus Northern manager Randy Morris got a good-luck phone call from University of Georgia baseball coach David Perno Thursday at the Little League World Series.
“So much for that,” Morris said after his team fell 7-4 to Hawaii in the Little League World Series.
Baseball guys live and die by superstitions. Perno has called Morris before each of the team’s two World Series victories.
Asked if he would take Perno’s call today before the deciding game in Pool A play to see who advances to the U.S. championship game on Saturday, Morris laughed.
“I may let it go to voice mail,” Morris said.
Perno and Morris met in 2006 when Morris led that edition of Northern to the Little League World Series title.
There is no bigger fan back home of the Morris-way of coaching kids than Perno.
“What Randy has done is incredible,” Perno said. “These kids are not just learning the fundamentals of game, they are learning to play as a team.”
Perno should know something about that. In his nine seasons coaching the Bulldogs, he has led Georgia to the College World Series three times.
The development of the players in Little League is vital to someone who coaches on the college level, Perno said.
“These kids are learning what it takes to win big games at a young age,” Perno said.
He also offered high praise for the high school coaches in Columbus, especially Columbus High coach Bobby Howard.
“In Columbus, they don’t know anything other than winning and playing the game the right way,” Perno said.
And he knows players off this Northern team will eventually end up on Georgia’s recruiting radar.
Kyle Carter and J.T. Phillips, both high school juniors who were key players in 2006, are now showing up on college recruiting lists.
“Look at that team (four) years ago and break it down,” Perno said.
“You had two kids on that team who are really good players. They will make an impact on the college level and probably the pro level.”
Watching his buddies
Caden Lemmons may live in Vestivia Hills, Ala., but he is Northern Little League at heart.
Lemmons, 11, moved from Columbus a year ago. He was in Williamsport to watch some of the guys he played with since T-ball.
“I’m excited,” he said.
So was his mother, Missy Lemmons. They left Birmingham early Thursday morning to make it to Williamsport in time for the game against Hawaii.
Lemmons played with Blake Hicks, Jacob Pate, Troy Gilliland, Jalen Latta and Brandon Pugh.
“Those are my friends,” Caden said.
His mom feels the same way.
“We grew up at Northern Little League,” she said. “I have been the team mom to all of these kids for years.”
The saga of Pugh’s shoes continues. The Northern shortstop was back in the white Easton cleats that each player was given on Thursday night.
His father Brad Pugh bought a new pair of Nikes after the Easton’s were too large.
“We asked the Easton guy if we could exchange the shoes and he let us,” Brad said.
Earlier Thursday, Brandon told his father he was little nervous.
“I told him he couldn’t be nervous now,” Brad Pugh said.
Columbus crowd growing
Columbus councilor Gary Allen and former councilor Jack Rodgers flew into Pennsylvania on Thursday to watch the series.
Allen’s district includes Northern Little League. Both men were here in 2006 when Northern won it all.
“I was determined I was going to be here,” said Rodgers, a retired mortgage lender.
Allen’s wife, Kathy, was with them.
“I said ‘I want to go,’ ” she said.
Gary Allen was talking to Morris’ mother, Jean, before the game.
“I told Mrs. Morris that Randy is a rock star back in Columbus,” Allen said.