If you are looking for energetic, entertaining and unpredictable sports in August, the 2014 Little League World Series has you covered. We haven't even hit the main part of the event, but the regionals have provided all sorts of drama already.
Starting with 52 teams battling for eight spots, we have seen extra innings, late home runs, dominant pitching performances and the heartbreak of defeat. The scary part is things will only get better the deeper into the World Series we go.
Until we get to those moments, though, it's about time we look at the top storylines from the Little League World Series so far with regionals ending later this week. First, we have a look at the updated standings from around the country.
|Joplin South, Missouri||1-3|
|Plymouth/New Hope, Minnesota||4-0|
|Canyon Lake, South Dakota||4-0|
|Newark National, Delaware||2-1|
|Northwest Washington, D.C.||0-3|
|Taney Youth Baseball, Pennsylvania||2-1|
|Toms River, New Jersey||3-0|
|Colonie, New York||2-2|
|West Salisbury, Maryland||1-3|
New England Regional
|Goffstown, New Hampshire||1-2|
|Cumberland, Rhode Island||2-1|
|Albuquerque, New Mexico||3-1|
|Northside Suburban, Texas||1-2|
|Lake Charles, Louisiana||3-1|
|Pine Bluff, Arkansas||0-3|
|Las Vegas, Nevada||3-0|
|St. George, Utah||0-3|
|Eagle River, Alaska||2-1|
|North Bend, Oregon||3-1|
Great Lakes Regional
|New Albany, Indiana||3-1|
|Bowling Green, Kentucky||0-4|
|Peachtree City, Georgia||2-1|
|Clemmons, North Carolina||2-1|
|Bridgeport, West Virginia||0-3|
|Taylor, South Carolina||1-2|
|St. John, New Brunswick||0-4|
|Vancouver, British Columbia||4-1|
Kayla Roncin Carries Toms River
It's been a great week for females in sports already. Former WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon was hired as an assistant coach for the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. Kayla Roncin is making headlines for the Toms River, New Jersey team at the Little League World Series.
Roncin, who went 3-for-3 in the team's first two regional games, has been doing a little bit of everything for Toms River. She has power, as evidenced by this home run against Ocean City/Upper Township in the state finals:
Even more impressive than Roncin's game on the field is the way she carries herself in a game that is so predominantly male. Speaking to Amanda Oglesby and Josh Newman of USA Today, the 12-year-old shows maturity beyond her years:
"There's always going to be somebody who says something about (being a girl)," Roncin said, "but you just gotta keep playing."
It would be one thing if Roncin were just on the roster, but she is a player who has made a difference for Toms River and could become a bigger story if the team makes it to Williamsport.
Also, while Roncin has gotten more headlines because of her hitting prowess, Mo'ne Davis deserves a shoutout. She plays for the Taney Youth Baseball Association. Both players are in the Mid-Atlantic Regional, which could make for a very interesting final if the two should meet.
Davis told Melissa Isaacson of ESPNW.com that the chance to pitch against Roncin would be very appealing:
I would actually really like to see how it is to play against another girl in baseball because I never have. I actually want to see how it feels to be a person on the other team.
No matter if she hits a home run on me or if I strike her out. I just want to see what I can do.
Hopefully this matchup does come to be, just because it would be a great storyline around which to build a game. It will also be nice to see these two very confident young athletes lock horns to see who is better on a given day.
First U.S. LLWS Participant Crowned Wednesday
Which team has had the best regional performance thus far?
First pitch at the Little League World Series in Williamsport isn't until August 14, but the first American team to join the fray will be crowned on Wednesday night when the Southwest Regional crowns a champion.
Pearland, Texas, which has gone 4-0 to this point, will do battle with the 3-1 team from Lake Charles, Louisiana in Waco, Texas. Even though the roster has changed, Pearland certainly is no stranger to this moment, having played in the United States Championship game at Williamsport in 2010.
The Pearland club comes into this matchup with the edge, handing Lake Charles its only loss in the regionals with a 6-4 victory on August 3. You can expect some offensive fireworks in this game once again, as the two teams combined to score 22 runs on Tuesday. Pearland opened the regional with 28 runs against McAlester, Oklahoma.
The Little League Guarantee
In case you thought that guarantees in sports were exclusive to the professional level, Darold Butler, head coach of the undefeated Chicago team in the Great Lakes regional, is here to prove you wrong.
One year after this club was bounced in the regional championship, Butler told Justin Breen of DNAInfo.com that he sees no reason this team shouldn't be playing in Williamsport starting on August 14.
I really believe this year is the year for this team. And I really believe they’ll get the job done on Saturday (in the championship).
Things were moving so fast, and we still found a way to get to the championship game last year. We just couldn’t get it done in that last game. This being my second time around, everything is a little slower. Everything is more calm.
To his credit, Butler didn't put down the other teams in the region, including Thursday's opponent from Canfield, Ohio. He has apparently learned a lot from last year's experience and is taking that with him.
This is one of those instances where you hear about experience playing a role in postseason play. Sometimes teams defy that rule, but Butler is in the moment last year and sounds like he's having a better time in 2014.
It's certainly shown in the performance of Butler's team, which has yet to lose a game in the region and is two wins away from a trip to Pennsylvania.
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