SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Cool and collected, 13-year-old pitcher Clint Wynn had to think a moment when asked about Georgia’s streak at the Little League World Series.
Entering 2007, Georgia teams had twice before advanced to South Williamsport, each time leaving with a championship.
Warner Robins, Ga., can make it three in a row after advancing to this year’s World Series title game following a 5-2 win Saturday over Lubbock, Texas.
“I want a repeat,” Wynn said with a straight face.
Georgia will face Tokyo on Sunday after Japan beat Willemstad, Curacao, 7-4, earlier Saturday. Ryo Kanekubo’s grand slam in the bottom of the sixth lifted Japan.
Georgia manager Mickey Lay said he’ll be doing some quick scouting Saturday night. First, though, there was a little celebrating to do.
“Dance a little bit, talk to the families, just get ready,” Lay said. “We’ll be partying here in a minute.”
Dalton Carriker homered, David Umphreyville Jr. had a two-run single and Zane Conlon snared a line drive to end a rally to lead Warner Robins.
With runners on second and third and Georgia leading 4-2, Conlon moved quickly to his left to catch a hard liner off the bat of Lubbock’s Bryndan Arredondo to end the fifth inning. Conlon stumbled briefly to his knees before being mobbed by delighted teammates on his way to the dugout.
Wynn pitched four-plus innings for the victory.
The past two Georgia teams to advance to South Williamsport have come away with the World Series trophy, including Columbus last year and East Marietta in 1983.
As giddy Warner Robins players posed with the “U.S. champions” banner, their fans chanted, “USA! USA!” Even Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue cheered them on from the stands.
Also, U.S. teams have also won the previous two World Series titles — Hawaii in 2005 before Georgia’s victory last year. The United States hasn’t had a streak of three or more titles since 1959-1966, an eight-year stretch of American victories.
Some of the Warner Robins boys talked about the Georgia streak at the batting cages before this year’s tournament started.
On Saturday night, an emotional Lay said the streak never came up back home. Pausing several times to parse his words, Lay heaped praise on his youngsters.
“Nobody realizes what kind of pressure these kids are on until you live with them for months,” he said. “You see this on television, it’s just another ballgame.
“But when you get here, these kids are put through some stuff — we understand what a professional athlete goes through,” he said.
After striking out Jay Pendergrass to end the game, Carriker skipped home and jumped into the arms of catcher Kendall Scott so hard they fell over near the plate. Other delighted teammates soon joined them on the ground.
“You can’t really soak it all in at once,” Carriker said after the game. “It kind of comes in stages, but the feeling is very great.”
Georgia took a 4-0 lead in the third on the homer by Carriker and two-run single by Umphreyville.
Lubbock’s Garret Williams homered in the bottom of the third as Texas closed to 4-2. Umphreyville scored on a bases-loaded walk to give Warner Robins a 5-2 lead in the top of the sixth.
Lubbock manager Ed Thorne, when asked if he was convinced that the better team lost, said, “Yes sir, I am.”
“Japan will win that ballgame,” Thorne said. “Every ball we hit went right at people. You hate to lose games like that, but that’s baseball.”
Lay wasn’t amused when he heard about Thorne’s answer.
“Look at the scoreboard,” Lay said. “They are a good team, but you need the right chemistry, with the right touch at the right time to make it happen.”
In the first game, Kanekubo raised his right arm in triumph as soon as he smacked the 2-2 pitch, an inside fastball, over the hedges beyond left-center field for the game-winning grand slam.
It was Kanekubo’s second homer of the afternoon, and the second straight game that Japan ended with a winning home run.
“I think our team slogan is never give up,” manager Youichi Kubo said through a translator.
Kanekubo’s teammates greeted him at the plate after his homer, before the smiling squad snapped pictures with the international title banner.
Kubo said his 13-year-old slugger sometimes struggles with his confidence.
“Kanekubo can do it all the time but sometimes he thinks he cannot,” Kubo said.