EDITOR’S NOTE: Merle Peifer and Pam Cummings have been filing daily reports and photos from the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. This article includes highlights of the daily reports, beginning with the most recent. For the full accounts and all photos, go to www.billingsnews.com.
Cole McKenzie delivers a pitch in the first game.
Dawson Smith digs in at the plate in the first game of the series.
The Billings team gets dancing instructions from the World Series mascot.
Tom Zimmer, Cole McKenzie and Andy Maehl discuss strategy.
By MERLE PEIFER and PAM CUMMINGS - For The Outpost
There are unexpected sights and sounds all around in South Williamsport on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
On this cool morning, games do not start until 1 p.m. Thousands of people are milling around, eating and staking out their spots on the hill for tonight’s game, which includes the team from Lock Haven, Pa. It will again be another crowd approaching 30,000 people, if not more, for this evening’s game.
After checking through security, we make our way down the long steep hill to watch the Montana team take infield practice and informally talk to a coach.
The team from California is also practicing on an adjacent field. Their practice has just ended and the California manager yells over to Tom Zimmer that our team should also be done practicing. Tom makes his way to the outfield and they have a cordial conversation. I find out later that they had breakfast together earlier today.
The coaches’ conversation sums up the competitive atmosphere within the complex. During the post-game press conference on Sunday, the Montana players indicated that they look forward to playing the team from California. During the tournament in San Bernardino, they became good friends with most on the California team. It is understandable since Montana has always shared common dormitory shower facilities with California during the tournament in San Bernardino.
It was explained to them that the only way they might play each other, since the tournament format change in 2001, was if they both met in the Little League World Series. Welcome to the World Series.
Another interesting distraction occurred during the game between Europe and Rhode Island. While positioned under Lamade Stadium taking pictures, the grandstands and ground started to shake, ever so frighteningly little, especially for someone from Montana. The umpire coordinator for the game, who is from California, recognized it right away as an earthquake, but it probably went unnoticed by most, except if you lived in Virginia.
The 1 p.m. game has concluded, with Europe coming from behind to take the lead in the top of the sixth, only to be surpassed by the team from Rhode Island, who never gave up, and won in the bottom of the sixth. Good for Rhode Island.
Having just listened to the Japanese and Canadian national anthems, we are ready to start today’s second game. Canada is the other Cinderella story here, having beat Chinese Taipei. They are now 1-16 against the Far East teams in Little League World Series play. Good for Canada.
The sights and sounds of the Little League World Series on Monday morning, Aug. 22:
On our fifth day, the first sight of the Little League World Series venue early this morning was awe inspiring to say the least. Missing, this morning, was the oppressive humidity constantly beating us down. The two stadiums are back to back and feature perfectly groomed fields. The hill outside of Lamade field is green and empty of fans ... for now.
During the games, the stands are filled with colorful T-shirts supporting all the teams. The upper hillside is brown from the cardboard sleds the kids use to slide down throughout the games. Later this evening, even these sleds will give way to thousands more chairs and blankets.
Currently, the lower hillside is also filled chairs and blankets, some filled and some unused, to “reserve” someone’s spot for the game tonight. It is 10 hours before the late game for the Pennsylvania team representing Mid Atlantic, but their fans are showing up early. There will be a sea of blue shirts that overwhelm the other colors.
In the meantime, the consolation bracket games continue and the stands are filled with fans from all teams cheering on the good play regardless of the team.
The Billings Big Sky All Stars have the day off but they had a practice earlier today. The players were given the afternoon off to be with their families.
One of the best jobs here has to be the mascot called Dugout. He or she dances with the teams and umpires before the serious business of the games begin. The managers and coaches also may get a chance to dance along for a national TV audience — who cares if you feel silly – it’s just part of this atmosphere. Even the Montana manager made an attempt to show that he can dance.
Dugout may be on the field during the game entertaining the crowd, or at other times he passes through the stands or concourse giving hugs and high fives to everyone young or old.
These teams are all champions of their area and are thrilled just to have the opportunity to play here. Yes, there are winners and losers in every game, smiles and tears when your team is finished, and a lifetime of memories to carry back to each hometown. They play their hearts out on the field and after the games they are back to being kids. I think it is harder to lose for the parents.
Fans buy shirts and pins and other souvenirs even if they have never heard of your hometown. They fill the stands, outfield areas, hillsides just to watch another game of baseball that follows the same rules regardless of what part of the world you live in.
There are hundreds of Northwest shirts and jerseys sold, many worn by just the locals supporting a team from far away. The Little League Souvenir shop sold out early of the Northwest jerseys and, yes, the color looks much better on TV then when you see them live, which is a light mustard in color.
The volunteers spend long days and nights cleaning, preparing fields, directing fans and I applaud their efforts and time. We need more of them in life. It’s another great day and I am thankful to be here.
In Montana’s first game at the Little League World Series, the Big Sky team from Billings scored five runs in the fourth inning and held on to win 6-4 over Rapid City, S.D.
Cole McKenzie pitched five complete innings, giving up three home runs, two of them to Erik Petry.
Sean Jones pitched the last inning, while Dawson Smith made a diving catch in foul territory at first base to secure the first out of the sixth inning.
The final two outs were secured with two long fly balls into deep right and center field.
Big Sky Little League’s next game is Sunday is at noon MST against Lafayette Little League from Louisiana.
Big Sky Little League, the Northwest Champions, did not let a light misting of rain slow them down in their quest for win number two at the Little League World Series. Big Sky’s second game was played against the Southeast Champions from Louisiana and the final score was 3-1. Patrick Zimmer pitched five complete shutdown innings.
Both teams started with two scoreless innings.
At the top of the third inning, Patrick led off with a base hit. Connor Kieckbusch followed with a walk. Cole McKenzie advanced the runners to second and third on a fielder’s choice. Ben Askelson next lined to deep left field, scoring Patrick and Connor.
An additional run was added in the top of the sixth inning when Pearce Kurth walked, Brock MacDonald singled to center field.
On the single, Gabe Sulser advanced to second base after being put in as a special pitch runner for Pearce. Ian Leatherberry hits a double to right field scoring Gabe with Brock tagged out at home trying to score from first base.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Sean Jones entered the game in relief of Patrick. A long fly ball to right field was over the head of Connor Kieckbusch; however, a strong effort to catch the ball fell off Connor’s glove, scored as a double for Louisiana.
Two outs later, Castile from Louisiana hit a double scoring the team’s only run. The final out of the game came on a hit to Patrick Zimmer (who had moved to third base), who alertly tagged the runner coming from second.
Billings Big Sky Little League, Montana State and the Northwest champion, will next play at 6 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, Aug. 24, on ESPN in Lamade Stadium.