Little League World Series 2013: Eastlake and Top Championship Contenders
The 2013 Little League World Series kicked off with a major bang on Thursday in South Williamsport, Pa., with Eastlake of the Northwest sending Texas of the Southwest to the loser's bracket.
That's one of many surprises sure to occur as the tournament proceeds, but as some surprise contenders begin to make themselves known, others have yet to make their presence felt.
The 16-team field is littered with talent from around the globe, but the following teams have already distanced themselves from the field—or will do so rather quickly.
Note: Schedule, roster and other pertinent info obtained from littleleague.org.
Grosse Pointe Woods (Great Lakes)
You probably know of the team representing the Great Lakes division thanks to "Swag Daddy."
Yes, you read that correctly.
Chad Lorkowski, the Grosse Pointe Woods star who weighs in at 6'2" and 200 pounds, goes by the nickname "Swag Daddy."
When you play as good as he does and your team is a contender, you can call yourself whatever you want.
With Lorkowski leading the way, Great Lakes has a serious shot at taking home the championship. In the regional championship game, Lorkowski not only hit two home runs but also took the mound and struck out 10 batters.
The team around Lorkowski is solid (they outscored opponents 33-17 in regional play), but it's his tendency for big showings that puts Great Lakes over the top.
Musashi Fuchu (Japan)
If you are familiar with the Little League World series at all, you had to know this one was coming.
This year, Musashi Fuchu emerged from the Japanese regional tournament, embarrassing the competition and outscoring opponents 36-15 on the way to an undefeated mark. The final game of the tourney was an 11-6 rout over Miyagino.
This is the third time since 2000 Musashi Fuchu will represent Japan in the tournament. Japan has won the World Series eight times in its history, which is good for second place all time. It has won the championship two out of the last three years.
Despite the obvious talent on the roster, Musashi Fuchu has some big shoes to fill thanks to the performance of Tokyo Kitasuna a year ago.
Hitting will be key for Japan this year rather than the shutout pitching we are accustomed to seeing from the team in the tournament. History bodes well for Japan, but so does the impressive offensive firepower.
As mentioned earlier, Eastlake is already blazing a path toward the championship after downing Corpus Christi 8-4.
Which team has the best chance of winning the Little League World Series?
Not many saw it coming, as Texas generally fields some of the most consistent teams. But the Northwest is now set to make some serious noise, and the Southwest has been sent to the loser's bracket.
Northwest started hot in the contest by capitalizing on throwing errors by Southwest, but Dalton Chandler broke the game wide open in the sixth when he banged a triple off the left field wall.
Northwest coach Matt Fitzgibbons subscribes to the strategy of small ball rather than relying on home runs to win. He relished in the approach after the victory, according to Colin Brown of the tournament's website: "That’s small ball that we play and those are big runs for us...Confidence wise, it helps you going in to close the game — that parlays into the closer’s mindset that I’ve got four runs to work with now so I’m going to light this thing up."
The upset clearly shows Fitzgibbons' team is ready to make a serious run at a title. It's a different approach than many take, but it's one that could see the Northwest emerge victorious by the time the final game concludes on August 25.
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling
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