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Georgia crowned LLWS champs behind Carriker's 8th-inning jack

8/26/2007

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Dalton Carriker couldn't feel his
legs as he rounded the bases.

His home run in the bottom of the eighth had just given Warner
Robins, Ga., a thrilling 3-2 victory over Tokyo to win the Little
League World Series title.

"I felt like I was flying, like Peter Pan," Carriker said. "I
didn't know what I was doing."

Adrenaline took over from there, said the 12-year-old slugger
with braces.

His dramatic home run over the right-field wall off a 2-1 pitch
from Japan's Junsho Kiuchi gave the United States three straight
Little League championships.

"USA! USA!" cried the Georgia-partisan crowd as dozens of fans
waved American flags. Columbus, Ga., won the crown last year, and
Ewa Beach, Hawaii, in 2005.

"They're not greedy kids," relieved manager Mickey Lay said.
"They just enjoy playing the game. That's something that we miss
sometimes."

They sure had fun after Carriker's homer. The jubilant players
from Warner Robins hugged him as he reached the plate. Lay lost his
hat after joining his team in celebration following a tense game
marked by excellent pitching.

Georgia reliever Kendall Scott struck out 10 and allowed one hit
over five-plus innings to quiet Japan's bats after Georgia fell
behind 2-0 early.

Scott, 12, had watched Japan's impressive hitters throughout the
tournament.

"Going out there today, throwing the ball, I was scared to
death on the first pitch," he said.

Scott left the game in the top of the eighth, with Zane Conlon
getting the last out.

That set up Carriker's game-winning homer. The slugger, hitting
.769 entering Sunday's game, was 0-for-2 with a walk when he came
up in the eighth.

He said a little prayer before settling himself in the batter's
box.

"God, please give me the strength to get a hit and help my team
out," Carriker said in recounting his prayer.

There was no doubt about his opposite-field shot off Kiuchi,
which easily cleared the right-field fence 225 feet away from the
plate.

Japan manager Youichi Kubo, who managed Japan to the 2001 Little
League crown, tried to console his pitcher afterward.

"I told Junsho that when you are a reliever these things can
happen," Kubo said through a translator. "I told him that he has
a bright future and not to let this homer affect that."

After exchanging handshakes with players from Japan, Georgia
players took hold of the championship banner, their proud parents
snapping pictures from the stands.

Warner Robins kept the trophy in the state.

The previous two Georgia teams to advance to South Williamsport
also won the title, including Columbus last year and East Marietta
in 1983.

Also, the United States' three-year title streak is the longest
since 1959-1966, an eight-year stretch of American victories.

"I'll remember every second of this," Carriker said. "This
has been crazy."

Scott struck out the side in the top of the sixth, fooling Japan
hitters with his curveball. He pumped his fist as he headed to the
dugout after getting Kazutaka Kato swinging.

But Georgia couldn't come through in the bottom of the sixth
inning with a runner on first and one out.

Kiuchi struck out Taylor Lay and Nick Martens to send the title
game into extra innings for the first time since Hawaii beat
Curacao 7-6 in seven innings in 2005.

Japan starter Ryo Kanekubo pitched three-hit ball through five
innings before being pulled after reaching Little League's 85-pitch
limit.

He was buoyed by a small but vocal fan club whose rhythmic
cheers and bright red hats made them stand out in a crowd heavily
favoring the Americans.

It didn't prevent Japan from reaching out to Georgia. Before the
game, the team gave Warner Robins a listing of the players' names
and addresses so they could keep in touch, Lay said.

"I don't believe we'll ever forget this moment. The sadness on
their faces and the joy on ours," Lay said. "But we're trying to
let them know there's no shame in what happened today."

Leading 1-0, Japan added a run in the second inning after Masaya
Ogino laced a bouncer up the middle that went off starter Keaton
Allen with the bases loaded. The ball settled between first and
second base, allowing Ryo Ogawa to trot home from third.

A sliding catch by David Umphreyville Jr. in center ended the
inning and seemed to pump up Warner Robins players as they ran
excitedly off the field.

Allen's check-swing double to the warning track in center tied
the game in the bottom of the second for Warner Robins.

Afterward, Allen dreamed of celebrating like he had won a World
Series with the Atlanta Braves.

"I want a diamond ring," the 12-year-old Allen said.