Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nebraska: Kearney Little League

Nebraska: Kearney Little League

Thirty-Year History: 2011, 2010, 2008, 2000.

Number of Majors Team: Eight

Roster: N/A

Preview: Kearney has become the power program in the state of Nebraska in recent years winning four of the last five state championships now after a 15-0 thrashing of Blair in the Nebraska state championship. According to Nebraska Central News, Blake Quintana and Jared Wegner each homered for Kearney in the title game. Wegner tossed a complete-game four-inning shutout. Kearney made it all the way to the Midwest Regional championship game a season ago dropping a 4-2 decision to Harney (Rapid City), South Dakota. While the College World Series is fully supported in Nebraska each year in Omaha, no team from the Cornhusker State has ever reached Williamsport for the Little League World Series. 

North/South Dakota: Canyon Lake (Rapid City, SD)

North/South Dakota: Canyon Lake Little League (Rapid City, SD)

Thirty-Year History:  Regional Champs (2008), State Champs: 2010, 2008, 2003, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1993, 1992, 1982

Number of Majors Teams: Eight


Manager: Mike Good

Noah Johnson
Cooper Bowman
Tanner Good
Ian Krump
Brooks Rainwater
Sam Morrison
Will Moore
Kai Torgerson
Connor King
Jack Sorensen
Austin Franke
Brian Petereit

Preview: Canyon Lake is no stranger to Little League success. Although it’s a short road to regionals for the North/South Dakota champion, getting out of Rapid City is tough with rival leagues like Harney around. Canyon Lake is 4-1 so far on the road to Williamsport with victories over Spearfish, South Dakota (17-0), Timberline, South Dakota (10-2), and Fargo, North Dakota (11-3). In the championship game, Canyon Lake dropped a tough 4-3 decision to Rushmore, South Dakota, but bounced back in the “if” game to take the title easily 11-3.  Canyon Lake has been led by solid pitching and defense. Offensively, Canyon Lake puts the ball in play as well as anybody. Connor King struck out 21 batters in his last two starts and belted two homeruns in the winner’s bracket final. He was intentionally walked three times in the championship game.

Canyon Lake opens up the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis against the Missouri state champion. Harney Little League (also from Rapid City) advanced all the way to the Little League World Series a year ago. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bedford, NH May Be the Home of the LL Barry Bonds

Where Can You Find the Little League Version of Barry Bonds? Bedford, New Hampshire, it seems.

Grant Lavigne and his Bedford All-Stars tore through the state of New Hampshire en route to a state championship this weekend. Bedford is currently 7-0 on the road to Williamsport and its next stop is Bristol, CT for the New England Region Tournament. In the seven games, Bedford has outscored its opponents 108-22 while belting 23 homeruns. Ten of those homeruns have come off the bat of slugging shortstop/pitcher, Grant Lavigne.

Lavigne is 15-for-17 in the tournament. He struck out once and reached by an error in his two unsuccessful at-bats. Only 17 at-bats in seven games? That's because Lavigne has been walked intentionally and unintentionally countless times already. In the two state championship games he was 2-for-2 with two first-inning homeruns. His other six plate appearances? All intentional walks.

Lavigne isn't the only star for Bedford. The boys from New Hampshire blasted five homeruns in the 14-0 state championship victory over Lamprey River. They're ones to watch in New England.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

52 Team Previews on the Way?

Well, Little League fans... we just got a bit more ambitious here at the LL blog. In the next week or two, state champions will begin to pop up all over the country as they qualify for their regional tournaments. In fact, two of them already have. Northwest Washington Little League from Washington, D.C. in the Mid-Atlantic, and Canyon Lake Little League from Rapid City, South Dakota. I've reached out to both teams to write preview articles on their road to Williamsport. Hopefully, we can get all 52 state/divisional champions. We will see.

If you happen to win a state championship in the next couple weeks, please don't wait for me to contact you. Email me at Are you a fan and know of a team that wins a state title? Forward me as many game articles as you can. I'll do my best to get some info on everyone in the country. We can do this. Let's make the road to Williamsport as special as possible.

Keep spreading the word about the blog!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Never Count Out a Champion

Fairfield American Little League in Fairfield, Connecticut has put together one of the more historic runs in recent Little League history. In 2010, Fairfield American won the New England championship and advanced to Williamsport for the World Series. While the 12-year olds were doing that, the 11-year olds won the state championship as well. While the 11 and 12-year olds were winning state championships, the 10-year olds copied the feat and advanced to the first 10-year old East region tournament... they went undefeated and won it all including a victory over Mid-Atlantic champion, Commack South, New York. It was an incredible summer for Fairfield American to say the least.

They weren't finished in 2011 though. Both the 10s and 11s moved up a year in 2011 and continued winning. The 11-year olds won the state championship again (this time without a regional to shoot for), and the 12-year olds won another state championship and went to the New England regional semifinals.

Enter the present.

The original 10-year old East Region champions are now 12 and shooting for Williamsport themselves. They have two state titles already under their belt. Another state title would mean the first 3-peat in Connecticut history at the 12-year old level. The Fairfield Americans easily won their district championship and beat one of the best pitchers in the state to open CT Section 1 pool play in a 13-0 mercy rule victory over Yalesville.

On Friday night, they faced Wilton, the district 1 champion. Wilton dropped a tough 9-8 opener to Seymour in the Section 1 tournament and another loss would be backbreaking. Facing the behemoths known as Fairfield American is not a recipe for success. Wilton would not go quietly however. Billy Black, Wilton's starter, shut down the fearsome hitters from Fairfield for four innings and Wilton hit two solo homeruns early to hold a 2-0 lead. In the fifth inning, Wilton loaded the bases with nobody out, but back to back fielders choices held Wilton to two runs. An infield single finally gave Wilton a big insurance run before a mammoth grand slam seemingly put the game out of reach with a 7-0 lead. Fairfield was shocked, the crowd was shocked, I was shocked.

In the bottom of the fifth, Fairfield's tough bottom of the order continued to stay hot. Back-to-back homeruns by the seven and eight hitters to lead off the inning gave Fairfield American some life. A couple more hits and a passed ball put runners on second and third with still nobody out and Biaggio Paoletta at the plate. Paoletta roped a line drive up the middle...this should score two, right? No. The ball was snagged by Wilton's second basemen who easily doubled up the runner at second for a double play. Fairfield hit another single scoring their third run, but the rally was killed. Wilton led 7-3 heading into the 6th inning.

After a quick top of the 6th, Fairfield American came to the plate down four runs. Once again, the hits came from up and down the lineup, but Fairfield found themselves down to their final out facing a 7-4 deficit now. With one on, leadoff batter Ryan Muery worked an impressive at-bat and fouled off a handful of tough pitches. The diminutive spark plug finally worked a walk after a taking a tough ball four to bring Paoletta up as the tying run. Paoletta worked a full count of his own before he drove a fastball to deep left field for a game-tying three-run homerun. Fairfield American had erased a 7-run deficit in two innings.

Matt Kubel who threw a perfect pair of innings in relief for Fairfield American shut Wilton down again in the seventh setting up a potential walk-off homerun for Fairfield. I don't think there was a doubt from anyone at the Southington South complex. It was inevitable. Michael Ghiorzi led off the inning by crushing another no-doubter homerun to keep Fairfield American undefeated and still kings of Connecticut with an 8-7 extra-inning victory.

Fairfield American has hit seven homeruns in two days by seven different players. The train keeps rolling towards Bristol and maybe Williamsport.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Welcome to the 2012 Road to Williamsport!

Hello, Little League fans.

This is the first of many blog posts you'll see from me, your resident Little League "expert," this summer. I've been following and covering the Little League tournament since 1998 from the district level in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey right up to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, PA. 

I've attended every year of the Eastern Regional in Bristol since 2001 and that includes nearly every pool play game and every semifinal and final. It's my favorite week of the year. To me, it's bigger than the World Series itself.

The Reason?

Teams are still wearing their home uniforms, its the first time a lot of teams in the East are on the road. There's the pomp and circumstance of the World Series, but none of the "we're just happy to be here" that you get in Williamsport. 

This blog will focus on Bristol for that week more than the other regions, but we'll have plenty of information about them as well. 

Be sure to check back every day and night for multiple blog entries and tell anyone you know that this is the place to be for Little League coverage. 

It's currently July 20th and I'm making my first irrational prediction! 

Your pre-state tournament picks to WIN the New England and Mid-Atlantic regionals are....drum roll, please........

New England: Fairfield American, CT

Mid-Atlantic: Warwick Township, PA

More on these teams later! Check back soon!