Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 6: Pennsylvania Still The Darlings

Well, Pennsylvania turned an incredible heartbreaking loss on the first night of the Little League World Series into probably one of the more memorable runs in recent memory. After Tyler McCloskey's throw to first base took out perennial-power Warner Robins, Keystone finds itself just one win away from playing in the United States championship game.

The historical thing about that possibility? With the exception of the illegal Rolando Paulino team in 2001, no team from the "Mid-Atlantic" region has ever played for the US championship. The last team from a Mid-Atlantic state to do it was Toms River East American in 1999. The last team from the Eastern region to play for a US championship was Saugus American LL from Massachusetts in 2003.

There's still a winner's bracket game to be played, however. Big Sky, Montana will continue to try and shock the world by taking on Ocean View, California tonight. The loser faces Keystone and its 30,000 fans.

If Montana finds a way to beat California it will be one of the bigger upsets in a long time in the LLWS, but if they do, it will be the first time since 2006 that a team from the Northwest plays for a United States championship.

This brings me to my next point.

Modified double elimination. ESPN and Little League have been telling us the format is double elimination all week long. I, like most people, assumed that meant whoever wins the two pods must be beaten twice. Then they will play single elimination championship game for the US crown. That's how they did it last year. That's how they do it at the College World Series.

I've been all wrong. Apparently, if you come out of the loser's bracket, you only need to beat the winner's bracket team once. This is a huge disadvantage for the teams that have earned the right to be beaten twice. Little League doesn't care.

Who does this hurt the most? Mexico. California will most likely be okay. Nobody has a pitcher that can match up with the staff they have. Mexico may actually have better pitching, but you can never ever count out the Japanese. If Japan makes it back to the International Championship, there is no favorite in that game. That's wrong.

I think the worst thing about the double elimination tournament is that California is basically an afterthought. I understand that ESPN is pushing PA like crazy, but PA is playing every single night. They have to be pushed. California is just sitting around being forgotten about, especially after their second game wasn't shown on television because of tennis. Tennis? Really? That gives ESPN better ratings than the LLWS? I doubt it. 

There's only six teams left in the entire world of Little League Baseball. It's pretty amazing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 2: Record Crowd Gets Heartbroken

In one of the wildest games in my Little League World Series experiences, North Oldham Kentucky blanket hometown favorites Keystone, Pennsylvania, 1-0.

More than 41,000 fans officially watched Kentucky's Griffin McLarty single-handedly beat Pennsylvania with a complete game shutout on the mound and a first inning homerun to win it. Most of the nerves on the field didn't seem to come from the players as the umpires converged, convened, were overuled, and just plain embarrassed themselves at one point.

The most egregious of the calls came in the fourth when Brandon Miller ripped a double down the left field line. The ball curved around the third base umpire (to the inside) and landed squarely on the foul line. The play broke up a perfect game and gave PA a runner in scoring position with no outs. Without looking at the ball land or remembering that he had a colleague behind him, the umpire called it foul. The call was first overturned, and then possibly even reviewed. In the end, once the umpires hands went up the play was dead and no amount of replay could change that. PA still got it's first hit that inning and had runners in scoring position, but the first of two really bad decisions by the third base coach killed Keystone.

By the sixth inning, PA was actually outhitting KY. A leadoff double by McCloskey was wasted when he was sent home on a bobbled play at first. KY's defender recovered in time to gun another PA player easily at the plate.

Alex Garbrick promptly ripped a single that would've tied it. McLarty settled down and struck out two more batters to end it. He finished with 12 K's.

I'm almost positive I've said it on this blog at least once while talking about PA. They ran themselves into so many outs in Bristol during the regional that it wasn't a coincidence. They are over-aggressive to a serious fault. It cost them a big one today.

In the first US game today, SoCal showed off it's pitching strength and then dinked and dunked it's way to an 11-0 victory over Rhode Island. Nothing about the game was surprising, but California still needs to hit more to win a championship.

I didn't get to watch too much of today's international action because of the rain delay and the 41,000 people wanting tickets to the PA game. I saw Canada-Saudi Arabia and they played as expected. Two of the weaker regions with both teams getting a gift to Williamsport equals average pitching and average defense.

Holland was better than expected supposedly, and Venezuela was "decent" from what I heard. To me, Mexico-Japan winner will take international championship.

So far, the biggest issue with Modified double elimination over pool play is that the two beat teams in each bracket aren't guaranteed to make the final. If Mexico-Japan are better than Venezuela-Canada it doesn't matter. Someone from Venezuela's pool has to be in the international championship.

Tomorrow is my final day on location. It will be interesting to see an old school Eastern Region championship game with New England vs. Mid-Atlantic. If I'm thinking correctly the last time the two Eastern teams played was in the 2002 semifinals. Worcester Mass beat Harlem NY on a walk-off homerun.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 1: Curious Pitch Count Decisions Rule The Day

A long first day of games is in the books. After a three-and-a-half hour drive to Williamsport, and nine hours of games, I'm exhausted. I'm not nearly as tired as the Little League World Series managers will be after trying to work out their pitching staffs. With a double elimination tournament confined to just a few days, its not something many managers will be used to.

In Game 1, Mexico put itself on the map with a 3-0 victory over Chinese Taipei. Mexico's starting pitcher, Jorge Jacobo, dominated the Taiwanese hitters by striking out 12 batters in a two-hit shutout. The big question mark for Mexico is that Jacobo is now spent for 4 days. In a tournament built like this one, burning a pitcher for four days can be dicey. On the other hand, Asia-Pacific was incredibly inept in the field. With six errors on the day (5 officially, I gave them 6), it might've been the worst defensive performance in Chinese Taipei LL history. The even more remarkable thing is that during warmups, they looked like the greatest.

Sticking with that same pool, Japan mercy-ruled Aruba 12-1 in typical Japanese fashion. Taking advantage of an error here and there, a bunt here and there, and then boom, a blast. Proving that they're always one of the headiest teams in the LLWS, the Japanese manager pulled his starter at 50 pitches. He's eligible to start against Mexico in the winner's bracket final of that pool. I understand that a blowout victory makes it easier to pull your starter, but still, what is Mexico going to do until Tuesday? Maybe they have a couple more aces up their sleeve. As for Aruba, their big ace pitched well and could do damage in this tournament, except...  Aruba burned him in a blowout loss. Aruba is probably going to be two-and-out now.

On the United States side, Montana took advantage of its first World Series appearance with a 6-4 victory over South Dakota. Cole MacKenzie had the big hit of the day for Northwest with a 2-out 2-run double in the 5-run fourth inning. Montana flashed some serious leather in the victory. South Dakota came into the series with a reputation for hitting, and they currently lead the homerun board with three. Unfortunately, walks hurt the boys from the Mount Rushmore-area.

The first night game of the 65th Little League World Series was a marquee matchup between Louisiana and Georgia. Neither league is a stranger to the LLWS, and it showed with a well-played game. Georgia was touted as a team with a dominant ace and not a whole lot of hitting. So far, that held true. Louisiana's Ethan Hines quieted the Georgia bats until the sixth inning before Hayden Erbe picked up the save by getting out of a bases loaded no-out jam. The biggest question mark of the night though was Georgia's star pitcher, Jake Fromm's absence from the mound. Jacob Giles pitched very well and is definitely a top of the line number two pitcher, but Fromm's 77-MPH fastball could've been used tonight for Georgia.

Day 1's Team Rankings

1. Mexico

2. Japan

3. Louisiana

4. Georgia

5. Chinese Taipei

6. Montana

7. Aruba

8. South Dakota

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

World Series Previews (Part 2)


Warner Robins American East, Georgia

Overall 2011 Team Record: 15-0
Southeast Pool Play History (Since 2002): 17-10
Georgia Pool Play History: 9-3 (LLWS Champions in 2006, 2007)

Team ERA: 2.00
Team Batting Avg: .275  (4 players over .300)

Key Players: Jake Fromm (25K's in 11.2 Inn, 1.59 ERA, .438, 2 HR (only HRs for team), 8 RBI)

Projections:Warner Robins will go as far as the "Man Child" takes them. Fromm is a monster on the mound, and was the team's most productive hitter. In fact, for all the talk about Warner Robins competing for the LLWS title, the team is extremely weak with the bats. If Warner Robins plays their cards right though, it's possible that Fromm will only need to beat two tough teams. Southwest on opening night and West in the US championship. If that's the case, we could be looking at yet another team from Georgia being the US champions.


Lafayette, Louisiana

Overall 2011 Team Record: 12-0
Southwest Pool Play History: 20-6
Louisiana Pool Play Record: 5-4
Team ERA: 6.00
Team Bat Avg: .375 (8 players over .300)

Key Players: Austin Primeaux (.700, 3HR, 11 RBI), Ethan Hines (.600, 2 HR, 12 RBI)

Projections: Lafayette scored a ton of runs in the Southwest regional and Louisiana state tournament, but gave up its share of runs as well. Haden Erbe is the team's ace, but he's not a flamethrower. After that, the well is pretty dry on the mound. Luckily for Lafayette, they hit. Hines, Primeaux, Erbe, and Miller are the stars. Lafayette's chances of winning the group will come down to the ability to stay away from Georgia's ace.


Rapid City Harney, South Dakota

Overall 2011 Team Record: 10-1
Midwest Pool Play History: 3-24
South Dakota Pool Play History: 0-3

Team ERA: 2.81
Team Bat Avg: .400 (5 players over .300, 9 HRs in regional)

Key Players: Hayden McGriff (.500, 4 HR), Zach Solano (.500, 2 HR)

Projections: For only the second time in history, a team from South Dakota has advanced to Williamsport. Although the shirts around Williamsports will say Rapid City, South Dakota again, the league is different. Back in 2008, it was Canyon Lake LL. This year it's Harney. The boys from Harney have some big sticks, and Hayden McGriff is intimidating on the mound, but besides playing a nice opener with Montana, Rapid City shouldn't provide many problems for anyone else in the pod.


Billings Big Sky, Montana

Overall Team Record: 18-1
Northwest Pool Play Record: 14-13 (Hawaii responsible for 5-1 record before moving to West)
Montana Pool Play Record: 0-0

Team ERA: 2.23
Team Bat Avg: .326 (5 players over .300)

Key Players: Cole McKenzie (.684, 3 HR, 11 RBI, Only regional triple crown winner in USA)

Projections: The Northwest region does surprisingly well, even without Hawaii to carry the load lately. Auburn Washington made a deep run last year, and the teams from Oregon performed well in the latter half of the decade. A team from Montana in the World Series is literally unheard of though. Big Sky, Montana didn't back into the series at all either. They went 3-1 in pool play and took care of business in the single elimination round. For Montana to be successful they only need to win one game this week. It's gotta be the opener with South Dakota. For that to happen, Cole McKenzie will need to win the one-on-one battle with South Dakota's Haden McGriff. Montana is in trouble just by Haden's name alone. If I have a baseball-playing son, I want him to be named Haden McGriff too!

I'll be on the road to Williamsport bright and early tomorrow morning. If I can't get internet access during the trip, I'll post through my phone, but it should be a fantastic week. I haven't been to the World Series during the first weekend since 2003. I'm definitely excited. If anyone is in Williamsport from now until Thursday, leave a comment... come say hi. Remember to share the blog with your friends.

See you guys in Willy!

Little League World Series Previews (Part 1)

The second year of Little League's double elimination brackets is upon us, and yet the two different pods are severely unbalanced. The U.S. pod including the West, Great Lakes, New England, and Mid-Atlantic is significantly stronger than the pod containing Midwest, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest. Today we'll preview the stronger pod in my opinion.


North Oldham, Kentucky

Overall 2011 Team Record: 13-3
Great Lakes Pool Play History (Since 2002): 9-18, 2002 LLWS Champions
Kentucky Pool Play History: 5-8 (3-0 in 2002)

Team ERA: 1.27
Team Batting Avg: .357  (4 players over .300)

Key Players: Griffin McLarty (Hitting: .647, 1 HR, 8 RBI, Pitching: 14.2 Inn., 30K's, 0 runs), Jacob Bates (.714, 1 HR, 2 3B, 2 2B, 9 RBI)

Projections: Kentucky is led by its 6'0'' right hander, Griffin McLarty. The fireballer dominated on the mound in the Great Lakes regional and was nearly impossible to get out at the plate. Jacob Bates was the star of the offense last week hitting over .700. McLarty will face possibly the deepest offensive lineup in Williamsport with Pennsylvania, and a major home crowd to boot, but good pitching always beats good hitting. The factor in the game and in Kentucky's chances to advance to the US championship is always pitch count for McLarty. The more he's eligible to pitch, the better chances Kentucky has at advancing.


Keystone, Pennsylvania

Overall 2011 Team Record: 18-1
Mid-Atlantic Pool Play History: 10-16
Pennsylvania Pool Play Record: 1-2

Team ERA: 1.03
Team Bat Avg: .380 (10 players over .300)

Key Players: Landon Breon (2 HR), Alex Garbrick(.579), Talon Falls (2 HR), Tyler McCloskey(HR, 3 Saves)

Projections: Keystone is a team that looks amazing on paper and in the field. Since I've been attending the Mid-Atlantic regional, Keystone was the most sure-fire champion of all. This week will let us know if that was the result of a weak field or if Keystone is the first team to advance to U.S. championship from the Mid-Atlantic since Danny Almonte's illegal team in 2001. Opening up against a powerful arm from the Great Lakes won't help things, but with the depth of lineup and on the mound, it's very possible that Pennsylvania can advance to at least the pod championship, even if its through the loser's bracket. Expect a major home crowd to boost the boys from Clinton County.


Cumberland American, Rhode Island

Overall 2011 Team Record: 13-2
New England Pool Play History: 13-14
Rhode Island Pool Play History: 1-2

Team ERA: 4.41
Team Bat Avg: .273 (5 players over .300, 7 players with 1 hit or less)

Key Players: Ryan McCormick (.579, 3 HR), Chris Wright (.389, 3 HR, 11 RBI)

Projections: Cumberland, Rhode Island was the third seed in the New England bracket, and possibly the fourth most talented team. How did a team with an ERA over 4 and a batting average under .300 make it to the LLWS? With great timing. The Cumberland bats were quiet through four games before exploding in the elimination round. Those bats will need to stay hot to prevent a two-and-out situation. The first matchup with the powerful squad from Ocean View will be very tough to be competitive in.


Ocean View, California

Overall Team Record: 18-1
West Pool Play Record: 21-6
SoCal Pool Play Record: 8-1

Team ERA: 0.53
Team Bat Avg: .351 (9 players over .300)

Key Players: Hagen Danner (.476, HR, 5 RBI, 0.00 ERA), Nick Pratto (.389, 2 RBI)
Projections: USA Champs. I don't think there's any doubt. The biggest negative against Ocean View is that everyone throws their best against them. The only pitcher I can see in the USA bracket that can out-duel any of Ocean View's pitchers is Fromm from Georgia. Otherwise, the staff of Danner, Pratto, and Salzburg will eat anybody up. The only true knock on Ocean View is that they don't hit the ball, but 9 players hitting .300 in a tough regional against top competition proves otherwise. Pratto, the team's best hitter, was barely productive all last week. If he breaks out, it's good night, Irene. Look for Ocean View to handle Rhode Island and then face a good-hitting Pennsylvania team or a McLarty-less Kentucky.

Check back tomorrow for the final four team previews from the USA. It's going to be an exciting 11 days!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

World Series Field Is Set... Previews Late Tomorrow Night

Well, Keystone, PA took care of business after the 22 hour rain delay and no Hiro Mizutani on the mound. The best team won the Mid-Atlantic though. There should be no complaints.

The World Series is shaping up to be a fantastic affair. With fan favorites in Pennsylvania and Warner Robins, GA plus a dominant pitching staff from California. The crowds should be huge. I planned on being in Williamsport for the first three days but I lost my hotel room. Anyone with a room for a blogger?! :-)

In-depth previews are coming by Late Tuesday night. I'm actually in central Pennsylvania now. I had to take my girlfriend to Maroon 5 at Hershey Park tonight. Back to Little League by Tuesday though. I promise.

Remember to tell all your baseball friends and family about the blog. Let's take a
Roll Call of folks going to Willy either this weekend or next. It should be a great time no matter what.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

With rain pelting the northeast today, it's highly unlikely that they get the final US championship game in today. It doesn't even look promising for Monday.

I know this much though. The Little League World Series is shaping up to be a dandy, especially if Keystone, PA wins.

Competitively, it's probably going to come down to Warner Robins, GA and Ocean View, CA, but add the fan bases for those teams plus Keystone hailing from just 25 miles away. Williamsport could be rocking with over 40,000 fans a day.

Montana winning the Northwest is an incredible feat. Being in Williamsport will be a blast for those guys. The only thing missing to make this LLWS complete is the Ugandan team from Africa. It stinks that we are stuck with the boring Arabian American Little League from RSA once again. If Uganda had overage players though, I guess it's the right move. If it was just political red tape, however, then it's a travesty that those boys won't be making the trip.

Be prepared for the most in-depth Little League World Series preview of all-time once the field is set.

Also, ESPN Classic usually runs LLWS games this week leading up to the series. It's always the standbys of 1980, 1982, 1989, 2007.  Well, this year, they've gone to the extreme. You can see games from almost every year of the 2000s, plus the greatest pitching duel ever in 2002. Add in Sean Burroughs team, and Todd Frazier, and it's a Little League fan's dream come true.

What was your favorite game, team, player ever???  Tell me in the comments.

UPDATE: 4:28P.M--  The Mid-Atlantic championship is still in a rain delay. Keystone, PA and Paramus, NJ are currently scoreless through three innings. Sources have told me that if the game is not completed by midnight tonight that Keystone, PA will be awarded the regional championship based on their record in the regional. Little League is doing everything they can to get the game in, however.

Also, Paramus was given the opportunity to play the game yesterday in an effort to get it in, but declined due to the eligibility of its star pitcher, Hiro Mizutani. Further updates will come as I get them.

7:18P.M.-- The tarp is still on the field. A lot of rain has fallen. I would hope they only play this game if the field is actually playable. The story that Pennsylvania will be named the champs is premature. Although, it is still an option. Keep watching ESPN2 and checking this blog for updates.

9:14P.M.-- Finally, the Mid-Atlantic Regional final was postponed for the night. New Jersey and Pennsylvania will resume the championship game at 10A.M. Monday morning in the top of the 4th inning. There will be no Garbrick or Mizutani on the mound. ESPN was incorrectly reporting that the pitchers were over 21 pitches and therefore could not finish the game. They were wrong. It's because the pitchers are over 41 pitches that they can't finish their 85. It's a special pitch count rule for weather-related postponements.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Hits Just Keep on Coming

Wow. Was my last post about pool play on the money or what? Top seeds dropped like flies today around the country, and I'm sorry it hurts the Little League World Series when it happens. In the New England region, it hurt the most. Undefeated New Hampshire and 3-1 Connecticut each had to play their final pool play opponents for a second time in two days. Both New Hampshire and Connecticut pounded the top pitchers of their two respective opponents while not throwing their best hurlers, I might add. The games meant nothing to them, but they still won handily.

Now, they're both eliminated from the tournament.

Maybe we need to go back to the stone ages of the early 90's and go back to single elimination. At least everyone would be on a level playing field then. I agree that double elimination worked better than they would now if the regions weren't split into eight. Six team tournaments would be kind of lame. Maybe the answer is inviting two teams from bigger states ala Texas and California to make it 12 per region. I'm not sure, but something needs to be done.

If Little League is married to pool play, then they need to get rid of the semifinal round. Just allow the top 2 teams to advance and play a full round robin. Goffstown, New Hampshire, the best team in the entire East Region has been perfect from game one of its district tournament. One game of follies (EIGHT ERRORS!) after committing just one error in the four pool play games should not eliminate a team, especially when they lost to a team they easily beat, who happened to lose two games in the regional already (fair and square), and also lost in their own district tournament. It's not right.

Fairfield, Connecticut blew it in a different way. Did they lose to an inferior opponent who they already beat? Yes. However, Connecticut can only blame themselves with some really poor coaching decisions. Hitting for its most dangerous hitter (twice!), and its second most dangerous hitter once, was mistake number one in a game you're losing especially in a bases loaded two-out situation. Add the fact that they pull their ace at 35 pitches while losing 1-0 is even more ludicrous. I feel bad for that group of boys. Fairfield will probably be back next year though. They have a really strong group of 11-year olds.

Hello, Nebraska!

Kearney, Nebraska is another 2-2 team (seeded third) who took it to a higher seed today. Nebraska will play for its first region title ever now. That's huge for Little League in Nebraska, but whether they deserve it or not is another story. I'm assuming that Nebraska threw its ace in the semifinal being the underdog and South Dakota should be a heavy favorite in the championship.  While we're still discussing pool play and its issues, fourth-seeded Bend South, Oregon just upended undefeated North Bothell, Washington. Another one bites the dust.

This Blog's For You

Let me know in the comments if there is anything you'd like me to touch on or discuss more. I'm looking for some blogging ideas to keep this as fresh as possible over the next couple weeks. Please continue to share the blog link on your facebooks, twitter pages, emails, etc...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

First Casualty of Pool Play/Single Elimination Goes Down

With an 85-pitch limit on ace Elijah Dunham, Golfmoor, Indiana had to hope and pray they would hang onto a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning. They didn't. Golfmoor suffered its first loss in the entire summer. Undefeated through district, state, and regional play. They were dropped by one run to a team that would've been eliminated in a regular tournament setting. In my world, 2-2 should never advance, and a win over an undefeated team certainly shouldn't knock them out.

We'll see how the Great Lakes final plays out. It's never good for business when the best team doesn't advance.

In the Southeast region, it's Warner Robins playing for a regional title. Their nemesis, Mobile Westside, Alabama won't waiting to greet them. New Tampa, Florida reminded everyone which state owns the Southeast over time. Unfortunately for them, they had to burn their ace to get there. Warner Robins must've been jumping for joy. In a scary moment, Westside's pitcher threw a pitch and fell to the ground in sheer and absolute agony. He was holding his pitching arm. Here's hoping that's not a surgery that the pro-pitch count folks can put in their corner. No matter what, good luck to that young man.

In the Eastern region, my time as an uncle has come to an end. Barre, Vermont dropped its fourth game of the tournament, 12-4 to Cumberland, Rhode Island. The boys showed some heart by battling back and actually scoring some runs. They did it against the Rhode Island ace as well. The 55 runs that Vermont gave up were the most in the history of pool play in Bristol...for about five hours. Northwest Washington, DC lost 17-0 to Keystone, Pennsylvania and added to their own total of runs against. They ended up with an unheard of 63. The good news for DC is that they put the ball in play much more often than typical Washington, DC teams do, and they have eight 11-year olds on the team. They could contend for a semifinal spot next year. One of the team's two best players is Sydney Love-Baker, an 11-year old, and a girl. She is going to be a force in her final season of Little League next season.

In the Northwest, Billings, Montana is as high as the second seed for only the second time in ten years. Despite making the semifinals more often than not, no team from Montana has ever played in the Northwest Region final. A 9-5 winner over Lewiston, Idaho today.. Billings just needs to repeat that feat for the second consecutive day to make history.

In the Mid-Atlantic region, there is some interesting positions that teams are in after tonight's games. Great Kills, New York dropped an important game to Paramus, NJ putting them at 1-3. Undefeated Keystone, Pennsylvania plays 1-2 Conococheague, Maryland this morning in a resumed game from Tuesday. They are scoreless through two innings. If Pennsylvania wins, New York is in as the four seed and will play Pennsylvania in the semifinal. New York's ace will be on the mound. If Pennsylvania loses to Maryland, then NY is out and Maryland is in as the four seed without their number one pitcher (he's not an ace anyway). There's a possibility Pennsylvania could end up facing New Jersey with a loss, but they will also be without their ace. A loss sets Pennsylvania up MUCH better than a win. What do they do?

The next few days are shaping up wonderfully. I can't wait to break down the World Series participants next week. Also, with the east coast bias, I'll be posting all-region teams for the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions.

This blog is updated daily, so remember to always check back. Tell your buddies about it. There is no other Little League blog around. After the series, we'll be holding discussions about potential changes in Little League, youth baseball as a whole, theories, etc.

I'm also brainstorming a book idea that could be interesting. Stay tuned for more on that in a couple weeks.

How Meaningless Is Pool Play?

Today in Bristol, Connecticut, I saw two fantastically played games in the New England regional. Andover National (Massachusetts) beat Yarmouth (Maine), 5-3. In the second game, Fairfield American (Connecticut) beat Cumberland American (Rhode Island), 3-0. That second game was a rematch of sorts, as Cumberland National, (the same league but different charter) lost 1-0 to Fairfield American in the regional final last season.

How important were these games? Ehhhh... I don't really know. Sure, it helped Connecticut get a better seed, and Maine and Rhode Island are battling for the fourth semifinal spot, but who cares once you're into the single elimination round? The CT-RI game was broadcast on NESN in the New England area, and luckily both teams at least started their aces. Most times, this late in pool play, NESN would've seen a #4 pitcher vs a #5 pitcher or something similar. The game itself was fantastic. Eddie Schwartz of Connecticut showed intensity on the mound, topped his fastball out at 71MPH, and struck out 5 batters in 1.2 innings. He came out at that point because CT wants to use him in the semifinals. He also happened to hit the farthest homerun I've ever seen a Little Leaguer hit. This was marked off at approximately 365-390 feet. It was incredible. The famous Sean Burroughs homerun in 1993 at Al Houghton Stadium in San Bernadino couldn't have been hit as far as this. Here's a link to the video. Skip to 1:13

Anyway, the game ended up being a great show of baseball talent and skill by both teams. It will mean nothing come Thursday when the semifinals arrive. To me, that's wrong. I think the old system back in the 70's, 80's, and early 90's is wrong too. Single elimination is one extreme, and pool play is the other. Pool play becomes single elimination as it is. Double elimination is the way it needs to be at every level in Little League, from districts, to sections, to states, to regionals, to the Little League World Series itself. It's the most fair, and the absolute best way to find the best teams.

Notes around the country:

Utah has qualified for the West Region semifinals for the first time since 2002. That's incredible for a state as small as Utah, especially within a region so typically tough. Ocean View is looking pretty unbeatable though. While they're not hitting homeruns at the clip of a Park View (Chula Vista), California from 2009, they're certainly pitching like the Philadelphia Phillies. Ocean View has given up 1 earned run in 18 innings at the West regional. They have 29 strikeouts as a staff. They've sent five different pitchers to the mound already.

There's something in the water at Warner Robins American Little League in Georgia. The WRALL all-stars have won the Georgia state title four out of five years now, and they're close to making their third trip to Williamsport. Obviously, they won the whole thing in 2007.  This type of Little League dominance isn't good for the organization in my opinion, but hey whatever. The fact that the regional is in Warner Robins now is a little suspect as well. It's not secret that I'm rooting for New Tampa, Florida or Mobile West Side, Alabama.

The Great Lakes semifinals should be some of the most interesting games on television this week. Golfmoor, Indiana's Elijah Dunham finally made an out. He's only batting .778 now. He also has four homeruns, and 14 RBIs.He's the triple crown winner of the region. Let's not forget that he has two saves and 9 strikeouts on the mound in 5 innings pitched. Kentucky seems to have the most explosive offense, and Ohio is always waiting in the wings. Michigan will most likely be cannon fodder for Kentucky though.

In the Mid-Atlantic region, weather has become a serious factor. Last night's games were rained out. Pennsylvania and Maryland were tied 0-0 through two innings, and the New Jersey-Delaware game never got off the ground. Both will be played on Thursday now. A day that was originally considered an off day before the semifinals. Why is this important? For starters, New Jersey's ace pitcher, Hiro Mizutani was expected to make his regional debut against Delaware. New Jersey still needs at least a second win to clinch a playoff spot. Now, Mizutani will most likely face New York, and with a day closer to the playoff round, his pitches will be limited. To combat Mizutani, New York, which hoped to be clinched by now, needs a win as well to guarantee a spot in the semifinals. They will have to throw their ace, James "Jimbo" Greig. With the limited pitch counts, and only Delaware and Pennsylvania clinched in the semifinals, NY-NJ could potentially be a play-in game. Maryland-Pennsylvania's scoreless game will be resumed Thursday morning and could decide a lot.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Television Coverage Beginning Already

ESPN began broadcasting the United States regional championship games in 1998 on ESPN2, and the ratings for the Little League World Series have exploded ever since. Toms River East American became the darlings of the LLWS, especially Todd Frazier. With the expansion of the LLWS to 16 teams in 2001, it became even bigger. Every US game was televised, and the Danny Almonte phenomenon and then scandal became national news. Now, every game of the LLWS can be seen in some way on the ESPN family of networks including all the international games.

As of last year, ESPN and Little League expanded again. Almost every regional semifinal game is now being televised, and even pool play games in the New England region are being covered by NESN, a regional sports network. Coverage kicks off today with the Southwest regional semifinals.

As someone who loves Little League, its great to be able to see two extra teams in each region after reading about them for the last couple weeks. It kinda puts a face with a name. However, I hate that these games are on TV now. For years, many a coach decided what he was playing for. Should he play to get to Williamsport or play for the TV game? Now, making the semifinals puts you on TV at least once. I think it's a little overboard. Making the regional final is no longer special for that reason.

Not only is it no longer special to be a regional finalist, it makes it that much harder because television has completely dictacted the regional schedules. Certain teams are in certain pools or play certain states specifically for television. The days off have been changed to accommodate the television schedule as well.

I'm all for ESPN doing this tournament. Televising the regional finals was the best idea yet in terms of expanding the LLWS coverage. Going to the semifinals is a huge stretch though. I'm definitely not a fan.

Of course, every semifinal game will on my DVR when I get home from Bristol, CT at the end of the week.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cream Rising to the Top? You Never Know.

With 14 teams currently undefeated within pool play across the country, it would be a good assumption that eight of them should make it to Williamsport. In the day and age of pitch counts however, everything is a strategy and you never know if a loss was earned or not. When do you throw your ace? How long do you throw him for? Do you keep him eligible for the semifinals or burn him for a regional final? These are all questions that every manager is still asking himself.

In the West region, Arizona saved its ace against Utah and took an important loss. In the next game, Arizona beat perennial power Hawaii by burning its ace for the remainder of pool play. Other teams around the country are using their ace sporadically to maximize the amount of games their ace can affect. With two-third of the teams advancing to the semifinals of their regions, it's really hard to get yourself eliminated. That reason may keep teams otherwise left for dead within perfect range of an upset and a spot in Williamsport.

New England

Goffstown, NH put a target on its back after beating Fairfield American, CT 9-7 in a great game. Connecticut is in a hole currently in a must-win game with Maine today. New Hampshire is sitting pretty with its ace available in the semifinals. Today, Massachusetts gets to take on Vermont, and New Hampshire gets another test with Rhode Island.


Paramus, NJ took care of business with a random selection of arms against Northwest Washington, DC setting themselves up for a semifinals berth because its ace Hiro Mizutani can pitch on Tuesday against currently undefeated Delaware. Keystone, PA survived against Great Kills American, NY to stay undefeated as well.


Colorado took control of its pool in the Southwest with a victory over Mississippi, but I don't think anyone is expecting a finals appearance over Lafayette, LA or Pearland, TX.


Ocean View, CA and Central East Maui, HI had a dual no-hitter through 4 innings, but Ocean View scratched a run across in the first inning, and added two more late in the game to remain one of the favorites in the whole country.


North Bothell, WA continues to give up a handful of runs, but pour on even more as the favorites in the Northwest. There's a crapshoot of 1-1 teams behind them. It's still a fairly wide open regional.

Great Lakes

Golfmoor, IN pounded out 23 hits and 22 runs against Michigan to remain the favorite in the Great Lakes. Elijah Dunham is batting 1.000 in three games with four homeruns. That is somebody who should get a free pass to first base every time up.


Grandview, IA and Harney, SD remain on a collision course in the midwest with matching 2-0 records. Iowa continues to do it with pitching and defense. South Dakota does it any way it can.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Everyone's Got At Least One in the Books

As day two of regional play comes to a close, Ocean View, So Cal is beating up on in-state foe, Red Bluff, to the tune of 6-0 in the third inning. It's safe to start making some assumptions throughout the country.

New England

In a very big game between Andover National, MA and Cumberland American, RI, the boys from Rhode Island rallied for a 5-3 victory. The two story lines of the game centered on star players. For Rhode Island, the return of Chris Wright to the mound, was important for Cumberland's world series chances. Wright, who broke his ankle in June, missed all of districts, and returned to the lineup during states. He showed no rust with his bat while belting a few homeruns at that level. Now, after a 3 1/3 inning shutout relief appearance, his return is complete. For Andover, Mass., the loss hurts, but superstar Andrew Selima hammered his 18th homerun in 17 games. There may not be a better hitter in any Little League regional. The homerun was measured at approximately 348 feet. Along with Goffstown, NH (5-2 over Maine) and Fairfield American, CT (17-0 over Vermont), these are the favorites in the region.


The Mid-Atlantic's talent is down once again, and the trend is disconcerting. Keystone, Pennsylvania showed off some bats today by ripping three homeruns off of Paramus, NJ's number two pitcher in an 8-4 victory, but the defense was a little suspect for the region favorites. Newark National, DE is currently in first place in the region with a 7-1 victory over Conococheague, MD. Delaware is now 2-0 after 16-2 victory on Friday over Northwest Washington, DC. The two wins from Delaware are potentially against the two teams who won't make the semifinals, however.


The battle everyone in the Southeast was waiting for commenced for at least the first time this year. Warner Robins, GA upended rival Mobile West Side, AL 7-6 in a come-from-behind victory. The win for Georgia was key because it puts Alabama in a position to probably play New Tampa, Florida in a crossover. That's a team which nobody wants to see before the final. The wildcard is Tarheel, North Carolina. Tarheel faces Warner Robins in the final game of pool play and a victory by the talented boys from NC could throw a wrench in the plans.


Two teams in the Southwest are already clinched into the semifinals. Pearland, TX and Lafayette, LA are both 2-0 and will face each other in the final pool play round for seeding purposes only. Midland, TX was eliminated in a blowout loss to Louisiana today. On the other side of the bracket, it's a complete crapshoot. Ocean Springs, Mississippi  dominated its opener.


Some of the most surprising results so far have come out in San Bernadino. One of them being Washington, Utah's 5-2 victory over Rio Rico, AZ on Friday. The region and possibly nation's favorite, Ocean View, CA is off to a good start beating up on in-state rival Red Bluff. Hawaii has been a powerhouse this decade, but dropped a close decision to Arizona. Silverado, NV is the wildcard in the West after a nearly dominant victory over Utah to open their tournament.


Regional powers Washington and Oregon both got off to rocky starts, but only North Bothell, WA could turn it into a victory. Trailing 5-1 to Abbott-O-Rabbit, AK, Washington turned it on and beat the northern-most state 14-9. It was not an impressive start for the favorites. Bend South, OR didn't exactly open eyes with a loss to Lewiston, ID, but rebounded today with a victory over Big Sky, MT. Who knows what to think in the Northwest.

Great Lakes

Golfmoor, IN moved to 2-0 in the tournament after a late-inning victory over Burlington, WI. North Oldham, KY dropped its first game to Indiana in a one-run contest before exploding for 14 runs in a victory over previously unbeaten Hamilton West Side, OH. Burlington, WI looks to be the fourth team in this race. It seems there is no clear cut favorite yet.


Harney, SD had the most impressive victory over the regional (a 15-1 win over Cherokee, KS), but it was against one of the weakest opponents. Grandview, IA won a pitcher's duel with Webb City, MO 1-0, and looks to be one of the regional favorites. Centennial Lakes West, MN is 1-0 after a shutout win over Nebraska and will test its mettle against Iowa today.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Perspective on Little League Regional

Being an "Uncle" at this year's East Region has certainly changed the experience of attending the Little League East Region tournament. For starters, taking part in the first day of events (before the games started on Friday) has been quite an experience. For the players, I believe the words are stir crazy. The pool is closed on Thursday and the boys aren't allowed to even play catch. Of course, PlayStation is the outlet. Many of the players partake in the tradition of pin trading. I know I was duped a few times.

Yesterday was the first day of games for eight lucky teams. Four others were finally allowed to practice, but the anticipation of playing has to be getting to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

The opening ceremonies were held before the night game, and seeing them from the field was interesting.

My friend and fellow uncle is a teacher, but I don't have a ton of experience as a supervisor of children. It's been a blast to deal with all the different personalities though. From the quirky kid, to the quiet ones, each player is a lot of fun to be around. Considering each of the other team's uncles are in their 80s and 90s, we have been tabbed as the "fun" ones.

After seeing our team's outlook for two days before its game, we didn't expect a victory. We do have Vermont which has never made it to the Little League World Series, but they are certainly happy to be here. Being fed to the Connecticut state champion in front of a couple thousand people after opening ceremonies didn't help. After taking a 17-0 beatdown, I expected some consoling to be done. There were a few tears on the field and everything. Before the boys made it back to the dorms, it was all about the pizza party back in the courtyard and they were already hanging out with Connecticut who just put them in their place.

Now, it's off to breakfast and a day off for the boys from Vermont. It's time to get ready for Maine on Sunday.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Regional Favorites...A Shot in the Dark

Trying to predict who will win a regional before a game is even played is nearly impossible. Nobody has seen all the teams play, nobody knows how tough the competition is within a specific team's state. A German octopus would probably do a better job selecting the regional winners. Well, I may have the intelligence of a German octopus, so I'm going to take a stab at it.

Great Lakes

The Great Lakes is always a competitive region but usually comes down to Indiana in the title game. Ohio has been strong recently, and Hamilton West Side, the Ohio champions, has been to the LLWS twice in the last five years including last season. Many of the state champions in this region are new to this level of play. The most intriguing of the group is North Oldham, Kentucky. A state that has two or three power programs was completely run over by this newcomer. It's the first state championship for this league. I'm going to go out on a limb and take the boys from Kentucky over Golfmoor, Indiana.


The Midwest is usually one of the weaker regions in the country. It used to be completely dominated by Iowa, but South Dakota and Minnesota have made major strides as of late. Grandview, Indiana went to the LLWS in 1980. Webb City, Missouri last won the state title in 2002. They won the Midwest region that year as well. Harney Little League of Rapid City, South Dakota is one of the two powers in the state. They rolled through the tournament this season. I think the improvement of SD will continue and they will win the Midwest region. 

New England

One of the more balanced regions in the country, there are four states that have a chance to go to Williamsport each year. Fairfield American, Connecticut is the defending regional champions and they're back to defend their title. It's possible that they could rematch with Cumberland, Rhode Island. The boys from Cumby are back, but this time it's the Americans not the Nationals. Andover National, Massachusetts is returning to Bristol for the first time since 1988. That year? They made the trip to Williamsport. In similar fashion Goffstown, New Hampshire is making its first trip to Bristol since 2000. That year, they beat Danny Almonte's Bronx team to go to Williamsport. "Young" Danny was supposed to be 11 at the time. Yarmouth, Maine and Barre Community, Vermont should both represent well, but most likely can't match up to the big four this year. If Cumberland's ace is healthy enough to pitch, the boys from Rhode Island will win the region. If not? I'm going with Andover National and their star Andrew Selima. Watch this kid hit if you can.


Another regional with a "Big 4" so to speak, the Mid-Atlantic is usually represented by New York, Maryland, or Pennsylvania, with New Jersey always in the hunt as well. This season should be more of the same. Great Kills, New York is making the trek to Bristol for the first time, but this team refuses to lose. Watch out for ace pitcher James Greig. Speaking of show-stoppers, Conococheague, Maryland's Levi Taylor is a hitting machinge. All he did was hit 7 homeruns in 5 games at the state tournament. Paramus, New Jersey is as steady as they come. With great defense and pitching, the boys from Bergen will never beat themselves. Newark National, Delaware is led by Alex Barker on the mound and at the plate. The class of the region should be Keystone, Pennsylvania. Keystone is trying to get back to Williamsport, not because they have played in the LLWS before, but because they are from that district in PA. Talon Falls is a hitting star, and Keystone rolled through one of the toughest states to win in the country. I expect them to win the regional.


One of the strongest regions in the country, you can be sure that Florida and Georgia will come to play. The wild card this year is Mobile West Side, Alabama. Mobile won the Southeast region as 10-year olds and 11-year olds. They want to make get to the promised land. In their way will be New Tampa, Florida, and Warner Robins East, Georgia. Warner Robins will have a serious home field advantage. The 2007 LLWS champions will be playing games in their own backyard. Reston National, Virginia and Tarheel Little League from Greenville, North Carolina could be strong, but expect one of the big three to win it. I'm going to stick with the defending champs, Alabama.


The Southwest is usually dominated by West Texas, Texas East or Louisiana. This year, one of those three teams will not be advancing to the regional semifinals. They're all in the same pool. Lafayette, Louisiana has taken over as the premier league in the state. They've been to the LLWS recently. Pearland Maroon, Texas is trying to defend the regional title for their league-mates, Pearland White from last year. They have to be the favorites.


With Hawaii in the West region, California's stranglehold on Williamsport berths has been significantly reduced. Expect a resurgence. Ocean View, California made it to the regional final last season with a pair of 11-year olds leading the way offensively and even on the mound. They're baaaaaack. For the first time since a Sean Burroughs-led Long Beach squad in 92-93, a league has repeated in Southern California. Ocean View is led by Nick Pratto who has been a force all tournament after having big-time regional experience last year. He should lead Ocean View to the title. In their way will be Central East Maui, Hawaii, and Rio Rico, Arizona. Red Bluff, California and Silverado, Nevada will perform well, but not enough to contend. 


It's all about Washington and Oregon. These two states almost always duke it out for the regional crown. Bend South, Oregon rolled through their state. North Bothell, Washington did some serious damage as well. I expect them to each make the regional final with Bend South coming out the victor.

Who do you think will make it to Williamsport? How many of the eight regions will I get right? Tell me how out in left field I am in the comments section.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Welcome to the Little League World Series 2011

Hello Little League World Series followers!

This blog will kickoff this weekend during the Little League regionals on the Road to Williamsport. We'll be discussing all the games around the country, who looks good, who doesn't, and what to expect once we get to the big show in Williamsport.

I'll be discussing the East Region most of all during the regional week, but we'll touch on all eight tournaments. I attend every single game in Bristol, CT each year. This year, I'll have a behind the scenes look as I'll be a volunteer uncle for the Vermont team.

Please tell your friends and family about this blog. I promise it's going to be a fun ride. There isn't a more passionate fan of Little League Baseball than me. Remember to comment on any blog posts you feel necessary. Let's get a good dialogue going down there. I'll answer every and all questions.

Remember, Little's for the kids. Right?