GULFPORT — Lee Huckaby has battled mysterious, flu-like symptoms for nearly all of Citrus Park's playoff run this summer.
Huckaby, in fact, didn't practice with his teammates before Citrus Park's game Monday against defending regional and World Series champ Warner Robins (Georgia) at the Little League major baseball Southeast Regional Tournament.
In the fourth inning, however, Huckaby may have turned a few stomachs in the Warner Robins dugout. Huckaby, pinch-hitting for Darren Miller, blasted a pitch from Payton Purvis down the leftfield line and just inside the foul pole to give Citrus Park a 3-1 lead. The home run would prove to be the winning hit in Citrus Park's 3-2 victory.
"That poor kid, he was sick all during districts, he was sick all during sectionals and he was sick halfway through states," Citrus Park manager Joe McGuire said. "He couldn't practice. He's been to the doctor numerous times. They don't know what's wrong. He stopped taking his medication, and he's getting better, so you figure it out."
Huckaby wasted little time at the plate. He swung at the first pitch from Purvis — a fastball — and crushed it.
"There was no way I was going to miss this (tournament)," Huckaby said.
Citrus Park had a golden opportunity to put the game away after loading the bases with no outs in the fifth but failed to capitalize. Purvis struck out two batters and got the final hitter to bounce into a force a second base.
Georgia (1-1) cut the lead to one in the sixth when No. 4 hitter Cody Carter smashed a home run to leftfield. A Citrus Park error and two hits loaded the bases for Georgia with two outs, but pinch-hitter Spencer Sato bounced a slow roller in front of the plate that Ryan McCullers was able to field and step on home plate to record the final out.
"We squeaked it out," McGuire said.
Citrus Park took a 1-0 lead in the first when Wyatt Reid singled home Brett Wilkosz, who came on as a pinch-runner after Kevin Merrell led off with a base hit.
Georgia tied the game at one in the second after a Citrus Park error, but Citrus Park regained the lead in the bottom half of the inning when Dan Martin's single scored Wilkosz.
Citrus Park can punch its ticket for Wednesday's semifinal round today with a win over Tullahoma (Tennessee) at 4 p.m.
S. CAROLINA 8, N. CAROLINA 4: South Carolina scored four runs in the second and fourth innings to outlast North Carolina and earn a spot in the semifinals. Jesse Horine hit a three-run homer for South Carolina (2-0) in the fourth, and Dalton Helms, who went 3-for-4, followed Horine with a solo shot to give South Carolina an 8-0 lead. North Carolina (0-2) got three runs in the fifth and another in the sixth on Justin Ray's solo home run.
ALABAMA 6, VIRGINIA 5: Alabama erased a 5-1 deficit and took the lead in a four-run fifth to advance to the semifinals. Matt Hall hit a two-run home run in the fifth to pull Alabama (2-0) to within a run. Tyler Atchison followed later in the inning with a two-run shot. Capped by Scott Parkhurst's two-run homer, Virginia (0-2) scored four in the first, and Will Hodges' RBI double in the third gave Virginia a 5-1 lead.
TENNESSEE 2, W. VIRGINIA 1: Tennessee took a 2-0 lead and held on for a one-run win. Scott Jones hit a solo homer in the second and Cody Kennedy doubled home Hunter Waites in the third to give Tennessee (1-1) a two-run advantage. West Virginia (0-2) got a run back in the fifth on Austin Hensley's solo homer. West Virginia had an opportunity to tie it in the sixth with runners at third and first with two outs, but Jones, who came on in relief for Tennessee, got the final out to close out the game.