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Citrus Park snags early lead, holds on for shutout win in opener

GULFPORT — As far as opening games go, Citrus Park's performance in a 7-0 shutout victory over Hurricane (West Virginia) at the Little League Southeast Regional Tournament was nearly perfect.

Citrus Park exploded for four runs in the first inning to take control early and used a combination of four pitchers to limit West Virginia to just two hits.

"It was a good first game," Citrus Park manager Joe McGuire said. "We played good defense, pitched well and we hit well. That was a good team we just beat."

Citrus Park (1-0) showed tremendous plate discipline early to load the bases with two outs in the first inning. Austin McCullers quickly unclogged the basepaths with a double to the gap in left-centerfield that scored three runs.

"He threw me four fastballs in a row," McCullers said of West Virginia starting pitcher Riley Metz. "I know he didn't want to get behind, and he's never seen me hit before. He gave me a fastball right down the middle. I just took it the other way."

Danny Lastra followed with a single to left field that scored McCullers.

"We love to score runs in the first inning," McGuire said. "It just takes all the pressure off the pitching and everything else."

Citrus Park starter Kevin Merrell (five strikeouts) yielded a single to the game's opening batter but didn't give up another for the remainder of his 32/3 innings of work.

Michael McGuire struck out two batters in 11/3 innings, Levi Gilcrease pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning, and after allowing a hit to the leadoff batter, Darren Miller closed out West Virginia (0-1) in the sixth.

"Winning the first game is good because we've got a lot of confidence now," McCullers said. "Overall performance was great."

McCullers added an RBI single in the third inning. Wyatt Reid homered to open the fifth, and Lee Huckaby singled later in the inning to give Citrus Park a 7-0 lead.

After a day off, Citrus Park faces Georgia Monday at 7:00 p.m. in the second of three pool play games.

S. CAROLINA 5, VIRGINIA 0: South Carolina didn't record a hit until the fifth inning but still shut out Virginia (0-1). Josh Corley struck out 14 batters and allowed no runs on three hits to earn the victory for South Carolina (1-0). Corley, who was taken out with two outs in the sixth inning, nearly pitched a complete-game shutout.

South Carolina scored twice in the second and once more in the third before adding two more runs in the fifth inning. Hunter Hice had two RBIs for South Carolina.

GEORGIA 7, TENNESSEE 3: Defending Little League World Series champion Warner Robins of Georgia broke open a close 3-2 game against Tennessee (0-1) by scoring four runs in the fifth inning to win its opener.

Jake Chastain hit a two-run home run in the fifth for Georgia (1-0), and Hunt Smith followed with a solo shot. Georgia starter Cody Carter pitched four innings and gave up two runs on three hits while striking out four.

ALABAMA 19, N. CAROLINA 3: Alabama belted nine home runs and had 17 total hits in a runaway, mercy-rule victory over North Carolina (0-1). Tyler Atchison, Brian Lane and Nick Franzone each smashed two home runs, and Justin Ware, Matthew Hall and Gregory White also homered for Alabama (1-0). North Carolina's Kam Johnson hit a two-run shot in the third inning.

Citrus Park snags early lead, holds on for shutout win in opener 08/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 4, 2008 2:32pm]

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