The MLB season is beginning to heat up ahead of the late-season charges, but another form of baseball is set to take center stage. The Little League World Series gets started on Thursday and will be a lengthy tournament.
Myriad young players will take to the diamond with hopes of winning it all in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, hopes will be dashed for all but one team in either the International or United States pools.
Of those teams, Japan comes in as the defending champion despite a new team winning the region. Tokyo Kitasuna won the title in 2012 and returns to reclaim the championship for their country.
As for more local clubs, a couple of underdogs will steal the headlines. Before the tournament gets underway, here's a look at the full schedule and teams to watch in the premier showcase.
|Full 2014 Little League World Series Schedule|
|Date||Time (ET)||Game||Matchup||TV Info||Live Stream|
|Thu., Aug. 14||1 p.m.||1||Asia-Pacific vs. Europe-Africa||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Thu., Aug. 14||3 pm.||2||Great Lakes vs. Northwest||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Thu., Aug. 14||5 p.m.||3||Caribbean vs. Australia||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Thu., Aug. 14||7 p.m.||4||Midwest vs. West||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Fri., Aug. 15||1 p.m.||5||Mexico vs. Canada||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Fri., Aug. 15||3 p.m.||6||Mid-Atlantic vs. Southeast||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Fri., Aug. 15||5 p.m.||7||Latin America vs. Japan||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Fri., Aug. 15||8 p.m.||8||Southwest vs. New England||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sat., Aug. 16||12 p.m.||9||Game 1 Loser vs. Game 3 Loser||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sat., Aug. 16||2 p.m.||10||Game 2 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sat., Aug. 16||5 p.m.||11||Game 5 Loser vs. Game 7 Loser||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Sat., Aug. 16||7 p.m.||12||Game 6 Loser vs. Game 8 Loser||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sun., Aug. 17||12 p.m.||13||Game 1 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sun., Aug. 17||2 p.m.||14||Game 2 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sun., Aug. 17||5 p.m.||15||Game 5 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sun., Aug. 17||7 p.m.||16||Game 6 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Mon., Aug. 18||11 a.m.||Cons. A||Game 9 Loser vs. Game 10 Loser||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Mon., Aug. 18||1 p.m.||17||Game 15 Loser vs. Game 9 Winner||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Mon., Aug. 18||3 p.m.||18||Game 16 Loser vs. Game 10 Winner||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Mon., Aug. 18||6 p.m.||19||Game 13 Loser vs. Game 11 Winner||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Mon., Aug. 18||8 p.m.||20||Game 14 Loser vs. Game 12 Winner||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Tue., Aug. 19||12 p.m.||Cons. B||Game 11 Loser vs. Game 12 Loser||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Tue., Aug. 19||3 p.m.||21||Game 17 Winner vs. Game 19 Winner||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Tue., Aug. 19||7:30 p.m.||22||Game 18 Winner vs. Game 20 Winner||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Wed., Aug. 20||3 p.m.||23||Game 13 Winner vs. Game 15 Winner||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Wed., Aug. 20||7:30 p.m.||24||Game 14 Winner vs. Game 16 Winner||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Thu., Aug. 21||3 p.m.||25||Game 21 Winner vs. Game 23 Loser||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Thu., Aug. 21||7:30 p.m.||26||Game 22 Winner vs. Game 24 Loser||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sat., Aug. 23||12:30 p.m.||27||International Championship||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sat., Aug. 23||3:30 p.m.||28||United States Championship||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sun., Aug. 24||10 a.m.||29||Third-Place Game||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sun., Aug. 24||3 p.m.||30||World Series Championship||ABC||WatchESPN|
Teams to Watch in 2014 LLWS
The starting point for any conversation about the Little League World Series has to be Japan.
Tokyo Kitasuna has hoisted the trophy twice since 2001 with a team from the region claiming the title five times in that span. Every squad from Japan comes in playing smart and disciplined baseball, even at a young age.
Patrick W. Wilson, the Director of the Little League International Tournament, spoke about what the LLWS means to Japan teams, per LittleLeague.org:
Teams from Japan have appeared in the Little League Baseball World Series since 1962, and the country of Japan has been represented as its own region beginning in 2009. ... This year, Tokyo Kitasuna Little League will be playing for an opportunity to win its second world title in three years and the third straight for Japan.
Needless to say, Japanese teams are as consistent as they come.
As for another team to watch, a little-known club out of Nevada is making history at the 2014 tournament. Just a year after California won the U.S. Championship, Mountain Ridge took the West Region, becoming the first from the state to do so.
The Little League's official account provides a look at the historic team:
With the representative from the West generally showing promise, the Mountain Ridge team is no different. The team has a solid offense and great chemistry, making for a solid winner heading to the U.S. bracket.
The team's manager, Ashton Cave, spoke about his resilient team, via Ray Brewer of the Las Vegas Sun:
It’s a dream come true. To be the first team ever in history from the state of Nevada, it’s a honor. It’s a great responsibility to represent this state. We are happy for the challenge.
The kids’ confidence is high. It’s great to see the self-esteem of these young men change. They've learned in life that when you put in hard work, a good outcome will come.
Another team with promise and resilience is Jackie Robinson West out of the Great Lakes Region. After a long run through the difficult region, the club became the first all-African-American team to advance to the LLWS.
The standout team was praised by baseball writer Peter Gammons after they clinched a spot:
With plenty of talent on the team, Jackie Robinson West staged a huge comeback just to make the U.S. bracket. If dealt adversity in the tournament, expect the team to surge and surprise any team it's up against.
Even with the international talent, the U.S. has the talent to hold up this year. Regardless which teams make it to the final, the 2014 competition promises to be an entertaining show throughout August.
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