Eight American teams will battle amongst themselves until one team is left standing to face the survivor of the international bracket for the 2013 Little League World Series title.
Whichever team does advance from America will be attempting to return the title to the U.S. Japan dominated its way to the title last year and has won two of the past three titles.
However, if the recent trend holds up, the little leaguers from Chula Vista, Calif., will win the title. Over the past four years, teams from Japan and California have alternated titles.
The boys from Chula Vista cracked my list of top American teams. Check out the eight United States representatives, and then I'll offer a closer look at the three teams with the best shots of advancing.
|United States Pool Teams|
|Great Lakes||Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores||Grosse Pointe, Mich.|
|Mid-Atlantic||Newark National||Newark, Del.|
|New England||Westport||Westport, Conn.|
|Southeast||South Nashville||Nashville, Tenn.|
|Southwest||Universal||Corpus Christi, Tex.|
|West||Eastlake||Chula Vista, Calif.|
Chula Vista, Calif. (West)
The Chula Vista team, from Eastlake Little League, carries on a proud tradition. It is the 10th team from San Diego County to qualify for the LLWS. In 2009, the Park View Little League All-Stars, which also hail from Chula Vista, took the title.
This squad is stacked and advanced out of the competitive West Region with an easy 9-0 victory over the Belmont-Redwood Shores Little League All-Stars.
In that game, Chula Vista's complete lineup was on full display. Five players had at least two hits. Meanwhile, Grant Holman pitched the whole game and allowed just two hits.
The win avenged the only blemish in 19 games this year for Chula Vista, as Belmont-Redwood beat them earlier in the calendar. However, when it mattered, Chula Vista proved it was the dominant team in the region and should be considered a top contender for the title.
Corpus Christi, Tex. (Southwest)
The first team from Corpus Christi to make it to the LLWS will begin its run to the title with a game against Northwest representative Sammamish, Wash.
Corpus Christi advanced in style, too. It no-hit Las Cruces, N.M., in the regional championship game en route to a 10-0 win.
This team is balanced and dangerous. Prior to the easy victory in the championship game, Corpus Christi received two home runs from Jesus Ortiz in the semifinal.
The blasts don't seem to have gone to Ortiz's head. The third baseman talks like a grizzled veteran when it comes to dealing with the press. Here is a quote from the youngster passed along from Drew Collins of KRIS TV:
Just play your heart out from first pitch to last pitch. We're trying to win our first game and not worry about any other games, just that one.
If he jacks two more home runs in a single game, I like his team's chances.
Westport, Conn. (New England)
This team has the pitching to contend. Westport, Conn., scored just four combined runs in the semifinal and final of regional play, and still advanced.
Harry Azadian and Chad Knight will give this squad a one-two punch off the mound that could pave the way to a title.
The team's other ace, Chad Knight, was even better in the championship. He struck out 14 and only surrendered a single walk. The only hit he allowed was a bunt, and he did so while his team offered up just a single run in support.
This is Westport's first trip to Williamsport, and with these two pitchers, that trip could be a magical one.