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FLORIDA TEAM HEADED FOR LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL WORLD SERIES
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa.(August 11, 2001) - Will Blankenship and Stuart Tapley combined for five hits, five runs and five runs batted in as Apopka (Fla.) National Little League defeated Sandy Springs (Ga.) Little League, 8-3, in the Southeast Regional Tournament championship at Arnold S. White, Sr. Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. Blankenship had a pair of 2-run home runs, and Tapley had a single, double and homer. Tapley was also the winning pitcher, fanning seven and giving up four hits over six innings.
The victory gives Apopka one of 16 berths in the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport Aug. 17-26. The World Series for 11-12-year-olds expands this year from its traditional eight-team field.
The last Central Florida team to reach the Little League Baseball World Series was Altamonte Springs National Little League in 1984. That team, boasting Jason Varitek (now a catcher for the Boston Red Sox), finished as the U.S. champion, but fell 6-2 against a team from Korea in the world championship. Eighteen Florida teams have made it to the Little League Baseball World Series in the last 54 years, but none have won the world title.
Six other berths have been determined for the Little League Baseball World Series: Khovrino Little League, Moscow, Russia (Europe Region); Guam Central Little League, Hagatna, Guam (Pacific Region); Tokyo Kitasuna Little League of Tokyo, Japan (Asia Region); Club Activo 20-30 Little League of Santiago de Veraguas, Panama (Latin America Region); Pariba Little League of Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles (Caribbean Region); Matamoros Little League of Matamoros, Mexico (Mexico Region): and Arabian-American Little League of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (Transatlatic Region). Eight U.S. teams will be determined in the next few days, and the Canadian champion will be determined on Saturday.
Two games will be televised on ABC rather than the single championship game as has been the case since 1963. The championship game of the Little League Baseball World Series can be seen live on ABC-TV at 6:30 p.m., on Sunday, Aug. 26 - the first prime-time telecast of the Series final. ABC will also televise the U.S. Championship Game on Saturday, August 25, at 4:30 p.m. The total televised World Series games will be 19, compared to 11 last year. In addition, ESPN2 will carry all eight of the U.S. Regional Championship finals in the Little League Baseball Division. The regional finals have been televised by ESPN2 every year since 1997.
President George W. Bush will attend the championship game in Williamsport on Aug. 26, and will be enshrined into the Hall of Excellence of the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum in ceremonies before the game. President Bush is the first Little League graduate to be elected president, and will be the first chief executive to visit the Little League Baseball World Series.
Admission for the Little League Baseball World Series is free, and tickets are not required.