Columbus Northern out 12-5 in Little League World Series

Twelve boys from Columbus, trying all week to bring another Little League World Series title to Georgia, saw their dream end Friday afternoon with a 12-5 loss to Hawaii.

“Naturally we’re down,” said coach Randy Morris by phone from Williamsport, Pa., who coached Columbus Northern to the 2006 crown. “We didn’t play as we hoped we would. It was a nice run, but this time it wasn’t meant to be.”

His team of 11- and 12-year-olds looked confident winning their first two games last weekend. Gov. Sonny Perdue, also from middle Georgia, promised to keep watching. On Twitter, the duck from hometown insurance company Aflac quacked them.

One more victory and they would have advanced, if the focus had remained.

Against Hawaii on Friday – in the third meeting of the teams -- Columbus went up 4-0 in the third inning. Shortstop Brandon Pugh doubled to score two runners (Blake Hicks and Jacob Pate) before coming home on a throwing error by a Hawaii outfielder. Pinch-hitter Matthew Lang added an RBI single.

Undeterred, Hawaii tied in the bottom of the inning – the halfway point of their six-inning game.

“I felt pretty good after the four-run lead and Jacob on the mound,” Morris said. “To their credit, they [Hawaii] battled, answered and tied the game. They are a very good baseball team … and they just outplayed us. They looked like they wanted it more than us, and I don’t know why. The last couple of games, we didn’t have the intensity that you need to bring to these games.”

Nearing the limit of 85 pitches, Columbus starter Jacob Pate gave up three runs in the decisive fourth inning. Morris said Jacob was frustrated by calls and “started overthrowing after that.” He gave up four hits, seven runs (six earned) and three walks, and struck out seven.

Jacob’s mom Tracy, also the team mom, said the boys “were upset, some crying, a little sad.” Her son “was disappointed, and there was not much to say… But it was absolutely a great experience. They are among the top five teams in the world and the top three in this country, and that’s not too shabby.”

Morris said the team did not feel pressure to match the world title of the 2006 team.

“Once you get here, this is the ultimate,” he said of Williamsport. “Whatever you do once you get here is just gravy. This is baseball heaven.”

Two other Georgia programs -- East Marietta National in 1983 and Warner Robins American in 2007 – have won the LLWS title.

“We did put Columbus, Ga., on the map in 2006, and going again this quick, people have to respect the baseball coming out of south Georgia,” Morris said. “I’m also realistic. It’s hard to do this two times in a lifetime.”

The boys will return Monday after watching the end of the tournament. Hawaii advanced to play Texas in Saturday’s U.S. championship game, which follows the 1 p.m. international title game between Japan and Chinese Taipei. On Sunday, the U.S. and international victors will play for the World Series crown at 3 p.m.