Every year, the Little League World Series enthralls us with its great matchups, up-and-coming players and waves of drama. And unlike the majors, these kids leave their hearts out on the diamond and play for the love of the game. It is with this, along with the crazy antics, reactions and screaming of parents that the Little League World Series is made so popular.
The next two weeks will put 16 of the best teams in the world, some of the brightest young stars, against one another. Here are a few of the top games I am looking forward to watching this week, all of which will be played on Thursday afternoon-evening.
Keep in mind, the first set of games are double elimination, where dominant teams like Curacao will be going against perennial powerhouse Japan, in a one of the most anticipated games of the tournament.
Game 1: Caribbean (Curacao) vs. Japan (Tokyo Kitasuna)
Curacao, representing the Caribbean, outscored their opponents 65-7 in the Caribbean Regional Tournament to find their way to Williamsport. With that outrageous scoring-margin differential, the team went undefeated in qualifying and has high expectations to do well in the LLWS.
Curacao has a clear talent for scoring runs, which will make it interesting to see how they handle the firm, disciplined attack of Japan. Japan (Tokyo Kitasuna) only allowed six runs during their qualifying, and didn't quite score at the same clip as Curacao, but are known for their unremitting success in the LLWS. Teams from Japan have made it to the title game seven of the last 10 years.
Japan will obviously be traveling thousands of miles, but don't expect that to hold them back, as fireworks are sure to be had in this high-scoring bonanza.
Game 2: West (Northern California) vs. New England (Connecticut)
Fairfield American (Conn.) advanced to the Little League World Series by defeating New Hampshire in a rout, by the score of 14-0. Connecticut put a romping on almost every team it faced in the qualifying, and has a penchant for putting up runs. Biagio Paoletta is Connecticut's big-hitter, batting .556, with two HRs and 18 RBIs in the regional tournament leading up to the the LLWS. Look for them to remain a well-balanced team who can strike at any time.
Northern California took a different approach to finding their way to the big show. California had a +14 run differential on its opponents coming in. In the qualifying sense, it was one of the lower-scoring differentials for any team in the LLWS. Bradley Smith led the way for the team, striking out 13 in three games pitched, to the tune of a 2.18 ERA. NorCal will need some big pitching performances to stay atop of Connecticut.
Game 3: Europe (Germany-US) vs. Asia-Pacific (Chinese Taipei)
The KMC American LL team of Ramstein Germany paved its path to the Little League World Series by scoring an unbelievable 90 runs, while only allowing 17 in its qualifying tournament. This team can score with the best of them.
Chinese Taipei (Asia-Pacific) has been an integral cog of the LLWS over the years, so why would this year be any different? Their pitching is always solid, with this team allowing only six runs during their regional tournament. They haven't scored as many runs as previous Chinese Taipei teams, but are unbelievably well-balanced, and look to continue their success in the LLWS.
So sit back, relax and watch some of the festivities the Little League World Series has to offer.