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Three-run homer propels Alabama

Colby Rasmus sat in his favorite player's lap when he was a 2-year-old.

Rasmus' father, Tony, was playing minor-league baseball when they crossed paths with Ken Griffey Jr.

Flash forward 11 years, one day after Colby's 13th birthday. The first baseman who just stepped into the teenage years walked to the batters box Thursday in the biggest game of his life.

His Phenix City (Ala.) National Little League all-stars were trailing the Donelson American Little League from Hermitage, Tenn., 5-3 in the top of the sixth inning. His brother, Cory, stood on third, and his friend, Zack Martin, was on first.

Then, the player who led his league in home runs hit another. And while you won't ever hear Griffey say he was trying to hit a long ball, Colby admitted it after his three-run blast gave Alabama a come-from-behind 6-5 victory.

"I was trying to (hit a home run)," said Colby, who missed a first-inning homer by a few feet. "I knew I had to hit something hard."

It was the first time Alabama led. And after retiring Tennessee 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, Alabama advanced to the championship game of Section I. It will have two chances to win one more game, which would put it in Tuesday's Southern Regional title game against the Section II champion.

For Tennessee, which led 5-0 after three innings, the game marked the fifth one-run decision in its last 13 games _ and its first loss in those games.

Tennessee fell into the losers bracket but could earn a rematch with Alabama if it beats the winner of today's South Carolina-Kentucky contest. And that was what Tennessee manager Wayne Denton told his son, Drew, who was pitching in relief of starter Ryan Gaines, and the rest of his team.

"It was one pitch," Denton said. "I told them to keep their heads up."

Drew Jackson hit a second-inning home run, and Ryan Hill followed with a two-run shot in the third to give Tennessee the early lead. But in the fourth, Alabama scored three runs, including a homer by pitcher Bryan Woodall.

In the day's final losers bracket game, Florida needed a little hitting and a lot of pitching to shut out Louisiana 4-0. Florida scored all four runs in the first inning, and Calvin Reyes struck out 15, one shy of a tournament record, to advance to tonight's elimination game against Virginia.

Billy Sandidge had an RBI single in the first, and Jared Maddox contributed a two-run single to help Florida to the early lead.

In the other game, Virginia ousted Texas, the team which sent Florida to its loss, 6-3.

_ Times Staff Writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.

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