By Rob Tota and Lucas Friedman
For the 72nd Summer, Williamsport, Pa., the birth place of Little League®, welcomes 16 teams from across the United States and several other nations to culminate the largest elimination tournament in the World – The Little League Baseball® World Series.
In June, thousands of teams begin their quest for a World Series championship. In only a few weeks, the field is narrowed to eight U.S. Region Champions and eight region winners from International Regions.
The first pitch of the 10-day tournament (Aug. 16-26) is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday at Volunteer Stadium. Considered longest consecutively-running sporting event on television, the Little League Baseball World Series will once again be featured on the ESPN Family of Networks and ABC. The World Championship game is scheduled to be televised on ABC beginning at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug.26.
Below is an introduction to this year’s World Series participants.
United States Region Champions
Great Lakes Region – Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.)
Established in 1954, Grosse Pointe Woods-Shore Little League is making its fourth appearance in the Little League World Series, having appeared in 1979, 2013, and 2017. It is the only league in Michigan that has sent more than one team to the World Series. Grosse Pointe is a suburban city in Michigan about 15 miles out of Detroit, home to just under 16,000 people.
This year’s all-star team defeated Rockford Little League for its second straight state championship and advance to the Great Lakes Region Tournament in Westfield, Ind. The team went undefeated in the tournament, surrendering just six runs in four games and defeating the Indiana state champs, 13-0, to secure its second straight trip to Williamsport.
Despite appearing in the Series last year, the roster is made up of completely different players and coaches. Their first game is set for Friday at 4p.m., against Northwest Region Champions Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) Little League at Lamade Stadium.
Mid-Atlantic Region – Mid Island Little League (Staten Island, N.Y.)
Staten Island’s Mid Island Little League is looking to pick up its second world title, having won the Little League World Series in 1964. The team’s most recent appearance came in 2006, finishing 0-3 in World Series play. Staten Island is the smallest of the five boroughs in New York City, home to just under 500,000 residents.
Mid Island rolled through the Mid-Atlantic Region Tournament in Bristol, Conn., finishing with a 4-0 record and a plus-22 run differential. The title game was an unforgettable day for the team and its followers, as pitching ace Greg Bruno threw a perfect game against a tough Maryland lineup to send his team to Williamsport.
Led by longtime Little League coach Joe Calabrese, the team has yet to lose a game this year with a cumulative record of 15-0. The Mid-Atlantic champs will open the 2018 World Series on Thursday against Grandview Little League, the Midwest Regional Champions from Des Moines, Iowa.
Midwest Region – Grandview Little League (Des Moines, Iowa)
Grandview Little League has been in operation for more than 50 years, representing the East side of Iowa’s capital of Des Moines. The team last appeared in a Little League World Series in 1980, where it went 1-1. Des Moines is the most populous city in Iowa, and is no stranger to baseball as the home of the Iowa Cubs, the Chicago Cubs’ AAA affiliate, since 1969.
After losing its first game of the Midwest Region Tournament to North Dakota, the Grandview Little Leaguers® bounced back to win their next four games including an extra-innings win over Missouri. They defeated that same North Dakota team, 7-4, in the region final, making them the eighth team since 2001 to represent Iowa in the Little League World Series.
Grandview Little League will look to bring Iowa’s first world title back to Des Moines, in an effort that will begin on Thursday against the Mid-Atlantic Region Champion from New York’s Mid Island Little League team.
New England Region – Coventry LL (Coventry, R.I.)
Coventry Little League operates out of Coventry, Rhode Island, home to 35,000 people and the 39-acre Carbuncle Pond. The Coventry Little Leaguers® cruised through the District 3 Tournament in Rhode Island, posting a whopping plus-69 run differential in those eight games and advancing to the New England Region Tournament in Bristol.
After two 10-0 victories to start their tournament, they were defeated by a strong Massachusetts team in their third game. Their fourth game was a thriller, overcoming a 5-0 deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning against New Hampshire to win 6-5 and avoid elimination. The team defeated Massachusetts, 3-2, for the New England Region crown, with Jake Mather hitting a go-ahead solo home run in the top of the fifth inning.
Coventry will take on Southwest Region winner Post Oak Little League from Houston in its first World Series matchup on Thursday.
Northwest Region – Coeur d’Alene LL (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho)
Coeur d’Alene Little League is the second team to represent Idaho in Little League Baseball World Series history. The state’s last appearance coming in 1999, when South Central Boise represented the Western Region. Nicknamed the Lake City, Coeur d’Alene is located on the Northern tip of Idaho and is one of the largest cities in the state.
Coeur d’Alene Little began its impressive 2018 run by defeating West Valley Little League in a three-game series for the Idaho State Championship. Then the team moved on to the Northwest Region Tournament, going 4-1, while scoring a combined 44 runs in those five games. It was an impressive showing for Christopher Reynolds, who hit .500 and picked up two shutout victories, including their 2-0 win over Montana in the Northwest Region Championship game.
Coeur d’Alene will begin its quest to bring home Idaho’s first-ever Little League title on Friday, when they take on Michigan’s Grosse Pointe Woods-Shore Little League, the Great Lakes Region winner.
Southeast Region – Peachtree City American Little League (Peachtree, Ga.)
Peachtree City American Little League will represent Southeast Region in its first-ever Little League World Series appearance. Located about 30 miles outside of Atlanta, Peachtree City is home to 35,000 people and is known for its network of golf cart paths that is nearly 100 miles long.
Considered one of the premier leagues in the state, Peachtree American Little League is coming off its third straight state championship, and went undefeated in the Southeast Region Tournament, beating Virginia 3-0 to secure a trip to Williamsport. Jansen Kenty threw a complete game, three-hit shutout in the championship game, giving him 11 scoreless innings in the tournament. The team showed a knack for winning close games, winning three of their four games by three runs or less.
Peachtree City American looks to continue its success on Friday against Hawaii in its first World Series tournament matchup.
Southwest Region – Post Oak Little League (Houston, Texas)
Post Oak Little League is making its first Little League World Series appearance in its 62-year history, representing the Southwest Region and the state of Texas. The city of Houston has had its fair share of success in Williamsport, as it is home to two championship teams in 1950 and 1966.
After winning the Texas East state tournament, the Post Oak Little Leaguers® cruised through the Southwest Region Tournament, finishing 4-0 with a plusp38 run differential. Richie Klosek and Ryan Selvaggi each slugged two home runs in the tournament, while Selvaggi also threw four innings of shutout ball in their Region Championship Game victory against Oklahoma.
The team had the opportunity to visit their hometown team and World Champion Houston Astros before departing for Williamsport, who invited them to Minute Maid Park prior to a game. Post Oak Little League is looking for a similar run to glory starting on Thursday, against Coventry Little League in its first matchup of the World Series.
West Region – Honolulu Little League (Honolulu, Hawaii)
The Honolulu Little League was established in 1954, and has since won 21 district championships and three state championships (1997, 2014, 2018). While the state of Hawaii has seen two world titles in the past 15 years (2005, 2008), the capital city of Honolulu has never made an appearance in Williamsport.
Honolulu went 4-0 in the Western Region Tournament, outscoring opponents 31-8 and beating Northern California, 11-2, for the region crown. Second baseman Sean Yamaguchi led the team with two home runs and eight RBIs in the tournament, including a four-run performance in the championship game.
Honolulu Little League will kick off its World Series run against Georgia’s Peachtree City American on Friday.
Asia-Pacific Region – South Seoul Little League (Seoul, South Korea)
South Seoul Little League from South Korea will represent the Asia-Pacific Region in this year’s Little League Baseball® World Series. South Korea punched its ticket by defeating Chinese Taipei, 6-1, in the region championship game. South Korea proved to be dominant throughout the tournament, finishing a perfect 5-0 while outscoring opponents, 63-4.
South Korea is no stranger to Little League Baseball World Series success. This year marks the third-straight year that a team from South Korea will represent the Asia-Pacific Region in Williamsport; the fourth time in the past five years, and their eighth appearance overall (1984, 1985, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018). South Korea captured back-to-back titles in 1984 and 1985. Seoul Little League won South Korea’s most recent title in 2014.
South Seoul Little League opens World Series Tournament play on Thursday, at 1 p.m., against the Caribbean Region Champion.
Australia Region – Gold Coast Little League (Queensland, Australia)
Gold Coast Little League from Queensland, Australia, claimed the Australia Region title by defeating the Adelaide Seahawks, 11-0. Oscar Hyde turned in a stellar pitching performance, striking out nine batters without allowing a hit. William Baker lead the offense with a three-run blast to put his team up for good. The team went 14-1 throughout the state and region tournaments to earn its spot in Williamsport.
Baseball is certainly a sport on the rise amongst the youth of Australia. This year marks the sixth year that the winner of the Australian Region has earned an automatic bid to the Little League Baseball World Series. Additionally, Gold Coast Little League is the first team from Queensland to represent Australia in Williamsport.
Australia is set to face off against Mexico on Thursday, at 5 p.m. in Volunteer Stadium.
Canada – Whalley Little League (Surrey, British Columbia)
In Surrey, British Columbia, a suburban city about 22 miles from Vancouver, Whalley Little League is once again celebrating a Canadian Region Championship. Whalley Little League earned the trip to Williamsport by defeating Glace Bay Little League, 11-0. Ian Huang threw a two-hit shutout over four innings, adding eight strikeouts to his dominant outing. The eventual Canada Region winners swept the competition, finishing the tournament with a flawless 8-0 record.
Whalley Little League has a rich history of success. In fact, the program is regarded as one of the premier Little League programs in Canada. They have previously represented Canada in 1973, 1978, 1997, 2005, 2006, and now this year in 2018. British Columbia has proven to be the dominant province, sending 21 teams to the Little League World Series, including 13 out of the last 14 years.
Whalley Little League will play Latin America on Friday, Aug. 17, 6 p.m. at Volunteer Stadium in the first round of the tournament.
Caribbean – Radames López Little League (Guayama, Puerto Rico)
Puerto Rico is a nation that has seen a resurgence in baseball in the past decade, producing some of the Major League Baseball’s top young stars, including Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, and Carlos Correa. However, during the World Series, it is a team of Little Leaguers® from Guayama, Puerto Rico that is in the headlines. Radames López Little League won its first-ever Caribbean Region Championship by defeating Pabao Little League from Curacao, a team that won the Little League World Series in 2004. That team featured current major leaguers Jurickson Profar and Jonathon Schoop. This will be the 11th time a team from Puerto Rica is representing the Caribbean Region.
While making it to Williamsport is every Little Leaguer’s dream, the journey to the Little League World Series was even more special for Radames López Little Leaguers. Guayama was among one of the Puerto Rico cities impacted by September 2017’s Hurricane Irma.
Radames López Little League will square off against South Korea on Thursday, at 1 p.m. in Volunteer Stadium.
Europe-Africa – Catalunya Little League (Barcelona, Spain)
Catalunya Little League from Barcelona, Spain, claimed the Europe-Africa Region title after defeating Kennemerland Little League from the Netherlands by a score of 19-0. The team went 4-0, and outscored opponents 39-5 on its way to Williamsport.
While this will be the 10th time Spain is represented in the Little League Baseball World Series, it is their first appearance since 1986. Additionally, this is the first time that a team from Spain is represented by native Spaniards. Many the players on previous representing Spain in the Little League Baseball World Series have been children of expatriates living and working in Spain. Catalunya’s entry into the 2018 World Series was well worth the wait, as the league had previously lost in the regional finals in two of the past five years, before finally prevailing this summer.
Spain opens the tournament against on Japan in the first-round on Friday, Aug. 17 at 2 p.m. at Volunteer Stadium.
Japan – Kawaguchi Little League (Kawaguchi, Japan)
Kawaguchi Little League will look to continue Japan’s recent dominance in the Little League Baseball World Series. In a tough region field, which included the 2017 World Series champion Tokyo Kitasuna Little League, Kawaguchi managed to compile a 4-0 record to capture the Japan Region crown. The team seemed to only get better with each game, eventually winning the championship over Nagasaki Minami, 23-2.
Historically, Japan has been a force in Williamsport, winning 11 World Series championships, which is second only to Chinese Taipei (17). Japan has been crowned champion in five of the last eight World Series tournaments.
Kawaguchi will be competing in Williamsport for only the second time in its program’s history. However, in their only other appearance in 2006, the league won the International Championship, but, lost to Columbus (Ga.) Northern Little League, 2-1, in the World Championship game.
Kawaguchi looks to improve on its previous runner-up finish, beginning with Catalunya Little League of the Europe-Africa Region on Friday, Aug. 17th at 2 p.m.
Latin America – Vacamonte Little League (Arraijan, Panama)
Vacamonte Little League from Arraijan, Panama, will represent the Latin America Region in the 2018 Little League Baseball World Series. Finishing with a strong 7-1 record Vacomonte Little league’s only loss of the tournament was to their Panamanian rivals, Aguadulce Cabezera Little League from Aguadulce, Panama, 8-0. The eventual Latin America Region champs avenged their loss, 2-0, in the semifinals. Vacamonte Little League defeated Rivas Little League from Nicaragua, 6-3, to earn its spot in Williamsport.
This will be the 10th appearance for Panama in the Little League Baseball World Series, and the first ever for Vacamonte Little League. No team from Panama has ever taken home a World Series title. Team manager Elpidio Pinto, former ace of the Panamanian national team and current TV color analyst, looks to lead his team to victory.
Latin America will look to stay hot against Canada in its opening-round game on Friday, Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. in Volunteer Stadium.
Mexico – Matamoros Little League (Tamaulipas, Mexico)
Matamoros Little League from Tamaulipas, Mexico, are champions of the Mexico Region. Matamoros Little League earned its spot in Williamsport after defeating defending Mexico Region champions, Guadalupe Treviño Kelly Little League, 5-3. Mexico’s national champs finished 8-0 in the tournament, exploding for 59 total runs, while holding opponents to just 13.
Tamaulipas is a northeastern state that lies on the US-Mexico border to the south of Texas. This year marks the fifth time that Matamoros Little League has reached the Little League Baseball World Series. During its last appearance in 2008, the league captured the International Championship, but fell in the World title game.
Matamoros Little League looks to give country of Mexico it fourth Little League title ever, winning it all in 1957, 1958, and last in 1997. This year’s team will face Australia on Thursday at 5 p.m. in Volunteer Stadium.