Columbus Northern Little League rallies for win over Alabama

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Finally, it appeared the offense and defense missing for Alabama in the first game of the Little League Baseball Southeastern Regional on Saturday showed up a day later.

Then, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and a four-run lead, the defense fell apart, and Columbus Northern made the mistakes hurt.

Northern scored four runs to tie it in the fifth and then got a two-out game-winning single from Cason Sizemore to edge Alabama 8-7 Sunday in Pool B play.

Alabama plays South Carolina today at 1 p.m. while Northern battles North Carolina in the day’s finale at 7 p.m.

It’ll take Alabama manager Tom Davis some work to get his players’ spirits up after a second one-run loss in as many days. On the other hand, Northern manager Randy Morris now has a team on a roll and with an offense that finally got moving.

“We tried to take things one bat at at time,” he said. “See what happens. You never know. You’re always in it until the last out.”

Sizemore didn’t start, but still went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs.

“I was nervous in my first at-bat,” Sizemore said. “After I got that hit, I came back in my second at-bat and I wasn’t really that nervous. By third at-bat, I was a little nervous, but I was pretty confident.”

Plenty happened in the fifth and sixth for that final at-bat to become so big.

Alabama put together four hits and took advantage of an error, passed ball and walk to bat around and score six in the top of the fifth for a 7-3 lead.

“We brought the sticks out (Sunday),” said Davis, whose Huntsville Eastern team had 13 hits. “The guys were fired up, but we thought we should’ve scored more runs.”

Morris talked to his players after Alabama’s surge.

“I just challenged ’em,” he said. “I said, ‘Guys, you can lay down and roll over or you can take this thing one bat at a time. We still haven’t hit like we can.’”

Whitt Davis took over on the mound for Alabama in the bottom of the fifth, and promptly gave up a monster homer to Knox Carter to open the inning. Kobie Buglioli followed with a single, but Alabama got two quick outs.

Then the defense went south.

Shortstop Luke Beasley was low on a throw on a routine grounder, and then he and second baseman Colton Schultz failed to communicate on what should have been an inning-ending force at second. Instead, Jack Copley reached second safely and Sizemore first, and the inning remained alive.

“We got the ground balls,” Davis said. “We should have been out of the inning.”

Blake Hicks singled in a run, Jacob Pate was intentionally walked, and winning pitcher Brandon Pugh added another run with a single. Alabama finally got the final out, but had watched a 7-3 lead turn into a momentum-changing tie.

“Knox’s home run, that was huge,” Morris said. “That happened, and it kinda set the tone. We kind of fed off that some.”

Alabama went down in order in the sixth, and almost survived the bottom of the sixth. Troy Gilliland singled with one out, and then pitcher Jake Christa’s throw to second on a grounder was wide, passing Schultz almost on the base to Beasley behind him. Gilliland misread the play and headed for third, where he was easily thrown out.

Copley singled, pushing Jack Tanner — who hit the grounder to Christa — to second. Sizemore then slapped a grounder between first and second, allowing Tanner to score the game-winner.

“That’s the thing with this team, everybody on this team contributes,” Morris said. “Cason responded every time he got to bat.”

Southeast Regionalat Warner Robins, Ga.Format: Each team will play the other three teams in its pool. The top two teams in each pool will advance to the semifinals. The winner of the regional will advance to the World Series.POOL B W LColumbus Northern 2 0North Carolina 2 0Alabama 0 2South Carolina 0 2POOL A W LFlorida 2 0Virginia 1 1West Virginia 1 1Tennessee 0 2SaturdayFlorida 14, West Virginia 1Columbus Northern 2, South Carolina 1North Carolina 4, Alabama 3Virginia 18, Tennessee 1SundayColumbus Northern 8, Alabama 7Florida 4, Virginia 0West Virginia 11, Tennessee 6North Carolina 14, South Carolina 2Today10 a.m. — Florida vs. Tennessee1 p.m. — Alabama vs. South Carolina4 p.m. — Virginia vs. West Virginia7 p.m. — Columbus Northern vs. N.C.TuesdayConsolation Round10 a.m. — Pool A No. 4 vs. Pool B No. 31 p.m. — Pool A No. 3 vs. Pool B No. 4WednesdaySemifinals2 p.m. — Pool B No. 1 vs. Pool A No. 26 p.m. — Pool A No. 1 vs. Pool B No. 2FridayFinal8 p.m. — Wednesday’s winners