For those of us who were a part of it, The Little League World Series is a passport to nostalgic times. The way the moths darted around the lights, the baseball field glowing in the dark, the smell of cigarette smoke from angry dads on the bleachers. After the game, win or lose, going up to the concession stands and getting a soda with the dollar bill your parents gave you—those were always the most refreshing drinks you ever had.
It’s true—watching these games is about something much different than seeing the best athletes in the world. But the tournament comes with its own unique set of thrills. For instance, a fly ball is not a sure out like it is in the MLB, and the six inning games make for a faster pace. There’s also those great moments that take you back to the emotions of your baseball childhood.
This year’s LLWS didn’t disappoint with its equilibrium of suspense and emotion.
One of the most interesting parts, to our local audience, is that a team from Greenville, North Carolina was one of the eight teams in the World Series this year. And not only that, but they had a very strong outing.
North Carolina had convincing wins against South Dakota (6-0) and California (16-0) before facing Texas. They played Texas in a tight pitcher’s duel, a game that they won 2-1, meaning that they stayed in the winner’s bracket all the way through the double elimination tournament and into the final.
Unfortunately, the kids from Greenville went down to Texas in the final in a heartbreaking 6-5 loss in which they had held a 5-0 lead early on. It was a tough loss for the state of North Carolina, which has yet to boast a Little League World Series title.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the LLWS came on the international side of the bracket. It was a game between Venezuela and Dominican Republic, and Little League star Edward Uceta was on the mound for the Dominican Republic.
Dominican Republic was up 2-1, but Venezuela had two runners on base in the bottom of the sixth. Uceta left the pitch a lot higher than he wanted to, and the result was a deep fly ball over the right fielder’s head. Even though Dominican Republic’s defense made a couple of solid throws, both runners ended up crossing home plate. Venezuela had suddenly lost the game 3-2.
Uceta was devastated. He lied down on the pitcher’s mound in disbelief, perhaps hiding his tears from the TV camera. But in classic Little League fashion, the opposing coaches and players walked over to comfort Uceta. It was a heartwarming moment in a sporting event that is filled with heartbreak.
The next round, Venezuela lost to Mexico 8-0. After topping Canada, Mexico fell to Japan in the International final, which was no surprise—Japan had outscored their opponents up to that point 22-1.
That meant the final took place between Texas and Japan, little league baseball teams that come from opposite sides of the world, in completely different cultures, brought together by a sport.
Texas started out strong. Chandler Spencer and Hunter Ditsworth both hit huge home runs in the top of the first inning, getting Texas off to a 2-0 start.
From there, it was downhill. Japan’s starting pitcher, Tsubasa Tomii, struck out nine batters and they also combined for three home runs for themselves on the offensive end. The game got out of hand pretty quickly, and by the time the fifth inning was over, the score was 12-2 and they had to enforce the mercy rule.
Japan ended up outscoring opponents 39-3 in what has to be one of the most dominant LLWS campaigns in history. It was their 11th LLWS championship and their fifth since 2010.
Had Texas come out on top, it would have been their third, and the first one since 1966.