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Risk takers, playmakers, hair raisers of pool play

By BRANDON WRIGHT
Published August 8, 2006


Pool play at the Little League Southeast Regional is complete and only one team will remain at the end of the week, but for other players - and relatives - this week has meant so much more. Here are a few snapshots:

* Despite giving up 12 home runs and scoring no runs in pool play, West Virginia players deserve a pat on the back. Why? After each and every bomb - including seven in one game hit by Georgia - West Virginia's infield gave the hitter a high five while rounding the bases, displaying true sportsmanship.* All the volunteers do a tremendous job, but no one tops Harold Garella, a 38-year veteran. The longest tenured volunteer, Garella, 83, guards the press box door and home plate entrance. And don't let his age fool you, if Garella says no, you're not getting by him.* Umpires often take abuse, but no one in attendance should question their dedication. The umps, who are not paid, also foot the bill for their travel expenses to the regional.* Dunedin clearly wins the award for most total team hair and could easily pass for an X Games crew. And from a distance, Josh Brackenhamer and Alex Hart are dead ringers for Tanner Boyle from the Bad News Bears (the original, of course).* Alabama lost a pair of 1-0 games, each with two out in their opponents' final at-bat: North Carolina's Stephen Whedbee doubled in a run in Game 1 and South Carolina's Kyle Whitman had a two-strike single in Game 3. The losses spoiled great pitching efforts from Robby Peele and Nathaniel Bartlett, but helped Alabama advance thanks to its low defensive runs allowed per inning (.235).

And kudos to the Alabama faithful, who despite their team's tough losses, kept spirits high - and the stands lively - with various chants all the way to the end.

* Georgia's Kyle Carter has proven to be the most dangerous player in the tournament. He twice has led off games with a homer and has five in three games. His majestic blast in the tournament's first at-bat cleared the scoreboard and likely landed about 20 feet shy of Tropicana Field. Oh yeah, he also has struck out 19-of-21 possible outs while pitching.* Talk about tough luck. Tennessee had the unenviable task of facing the tournament's two best pitchers in its first two games - Dunedin's Noah Klassen and Carter. The pair held Tennessee to three hits and struck out 27.* West Virginia rightfielder Alex Harclerode turned in the defensive gem of the tournament. Harclerode ranged to his left on a sinking liner and sprawled out to make a fully-extended, diving catch that saved a pair of runs.* Dante Bichette Jr., who led Maitland to the regional championship last year, threw out the first pitch before Dunedin's game Sunday. Bichette also attended the Dunedin-Georgia game Monday.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I always say sometimes things don't go your way, but the sun will always come up tomorrow and the Dairy Queen will still be open." - West Virginia coach Pat Oliverio after his team finished 0-3 through pool play.