Every summer, the Little League World Series takes all the cliches and heartfelt messages fans see in sports movies and brings them to the baseball diamond.
For once, the players actually are playing for the love of the game instead of fat contracts, and sportsmanship isn’t just something that is preached instead of practiced. What’s more, unlike Major League Baseball's version, this World Series actually features teams from around the planet arriving in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
How many other sporting events feature teams from both Chicago and Venezuela?
There are eight squads in the United States Division and eight in the International Division, and the winner of each will face off for the championship. It all gets underway Thursday, and a schedule with broadcast information for the opening set of games can be found below.
|LLWS Opening Games|
|Asia-Pacific (Seoul) vs. Europe-Africa (South Moravia)||Thursday at 1 p.m. ET||ESPN||Watch ESPN|
|Great Lakes (Jackie Robinson West) vs. Northwest (Lynnwood Pacific)||Thursday at 3 p.m. ET||ESPN||Watch ESPN|
|Caribbean (Miguel Luzunaris) vs. Perth Metro North||Thursday at 5 p.m. ET||ESPN 2||Watch ESPN|
|Midwest (Canyon Lake) vs. West (Mountain Ridge)||Thursday at 7 p.m. ET||ESPN 2||Watch ESPN|
|Mexico (Guadalupe Linda Vista) vs. Canada (South Vancouver)||Friday at 1 p.m. ET||ESPN||Watch ESPN|
|Mid-Atlantic (Taney Youth Baseball Association) vs. (Southeast) South Nashville||Friday at 3 p.m. ET||ESPN||Watch ESPN|
|Latin America (Coquivacoa) vs. Japan (Tokyo Kitasuna)||Friday at 5 p.m. ET||ESPN 2||Watch ESPN|
|Southwest (Pearland East) vs. New England (Cumberland American)||Friday at 8 p.m. ET||ESPN 2||Watch ESPN|
Storyline to Watch
In the movie The Sandlot, there is a famous scene where the character Ham Porter shocks his friends and fellow baseball players by dropping what appears to be an appalling insult—“You play ball like a giiirrrrrrrrl!”
The fact that the rest of the group stands there in stunned silence says it all. Porter crossed a playground line and threw down the gauntlet.
However, that supposed insult wouldn’t carry much weight at the Little League World Series, because one of the best players in the entire event just so happens to be a female. Her name is Mo’Ne Davis, and she took the country by storm when she threw a three-hit shutout to lead her Taney Dragons squad from Pennsylvania to South Williamsport.
SportsCenter captured the highlights:
Two days before that, Davis tallied a save in a thrilling 6-5 regional-semifinal victory.
Davis has completely overpowered her opponents from the mound with a high fastball that consistently registers in the upper 60s and has been known to reach 70 mph. That's not her only pitch, though, as she mixes in a curveball that simply falls off the table as it approaches the plate. It’s almost unfair after seeing the fastball.
Oh, and she’s 13 years old.
While Davis notches plenty of strikeouts, she isn’t afraid to pitch to contact. The Dragons bring a solid defense behind her and have made impressive plays throughout the regional rounds, so inducing pop-ups and groundouts is certainly in the game plan.
Alex Rice, Davis’ coach, mentioned her composure when discussing her ability, via Melissa Isaacson of ESPNW.com: "She has incredible leadership, and you can't shake her; she's unflappable. Hit a home run off her and she'll just give a little smile and get back to work. She doesn't get rattled."
The Dragons are a threat to win the entire Little League World Series, and not just because of Davis’ ability to work her way through an opposing lineup on the mound. As Michael Baumann of Grantland noted, there are a number of of offensive weapons who provide impressive run support for their pitching star.
Scott Bandura has the speed necessary to make things happen with the bunt. Shortstop Jared Sprague-Lott tore the cover off the ball at the regional and hit .533, while third baseman Jack Rice mixed in a .412 batting average and a home run. Throw in Zion Spearman’s power from the outfield, and this is a complete lineup.
It’s not hard to envision the Dragons notching plenty of runs with this attack and advancing deep into the tournament. That would give Davis a whole new crop of opponents to shut down.
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