A World of Series
Big or Little, Junior or Senior, Little League International has a World Series for all. As the 2009 Little League Baseball World Series comes to an end Sunday in South Williamsport, Pa., we take a look back on all eight World Series tournaments in 2009.

Author: Allie Weinberger, Mark Rogoff, Zach Swartz and Gabe Hiatt - Special Correspondents

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date: 8/30/2009

You can’t see every game on ESPN. You may not see Major Leaguers, Hall of Famers, all-star broadcasters or a media contingent of hundreds. But there is one thing the other eight World Series tournaments have in common with the 2009 Little League Baseball World Series – passion for the greatest game in the land.

And while the World Series you are used to seeing in August wound down Sunday, closing out the Little League season, the 2009 World Series have been going on all month long.

Wait, you didn’t know there were eight other World Series tournaments? Well, read on and find out all the other opportunities Little League International has to offer.

Georgia on my Mind

The 2009 Little League Softball World Series concluded on August 19 with the Southeast champs from Warner Robins, Ga. defeating the Southwest champs from Crawford, Texas by the score of 14-2 in the title game.

The 10-team tournament featured two pools that included both international and United States squads, making it one of the only World Series tournaments to feature an all American championship game.

Starring for the Warner Robins squad was Carson Carriker, the younger sister of 2007 Little League Baseball World Series hero Dalton Carriker. Dalton, as you may recall, hit a walk-off solo home run in the eighth inning of the World Series championship game against Japan, giving his Warner Robins club a 3-2 triumph.

“[Carson] is really, really good,” said tournament director Sue Seaver. “She played great defense.”

The Little League Softball World Series, a tournament for 12- and 13-year-old girls, featured a team from Guam for the first time. They represented the Asia-Pacific region, which had previously been dominated by teams from the Philippines. The Series also featured a squad from Milano, Italy. No Italian team had ever won a pool play game, but this year’s Milano club, despite not advancing to semifinals, went 2-2.

“There were great teams and great families,” Seaver said of the tournament. “The kids were great.”

In the (Ari)Zone-a

The West region has had a representative in the World Series final at all four levels of baseball play in 2009, but entering Sunday’s Little League World Series Championship, the Junior League World Series team from Scottsdale, Ariz., has been the only one to exit with a title.

Scottsdale put up an impressive performance in the 29th Junior League Baseball World Series. The West region champs went undefeated through the tournament en route to an eventual 9-1 victory over the Latin American region winners from Oranjestad, Aruba, in the World Series championship game August 22.

“Arizona was the most consistent team on defense, and they played the game with excitement,” tournament director Greg Bzura said. “They had fewer errors than other teams did. They did their job – they just did it.”

The Scottsdale all-stars became the eighth U.S. champion in the last 10 years and just the second team from Arizona to take the title since the first Junior League World Series in 1981. It is also the third-straight year that a team from the West region has represented the U.S. in the Series final.

More than 2,500 fans poured into Heritage Park to watch the final game, which was preceded by a home run derby in which the players hit balls off a tee – an appropriate reflection of the tournament, considering it saw a pair of home runs touch down more than 380 feet away.

“I saw the kids’ excitement of not only playing for a World Series, but of playing other teams from around the world,” Bzura said. “I saw kids tickled to death playing teams from other countries.”

Taking place in Taylor, Mich., the week leading up to the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa., the Junior League World Series is played by 13- and 14-year-old Little League graduates.

Ladies’ Choice
JUNIOR LEAGUE SOFTBALL – Kirkland, Washington

The Latin American region champions from Maunabo, Puerto Rico, defeated the Central region Champions from Elyria, Ohio in a tight 2-1 contest to win the Junior League Softball World Series.

The win counted as Maunabo’s second World Series Championship in the event’s 10-year existence. Maunabo earned its first title in 2007 by beating the U.S. West region champions, 16-6.

The tournament pitted the top two seeds of each pool against each other in the semifinal round with the winners advancing to face off in the finals.

Maunabo was the only one of the three 3-1 teams to advance out of Pool A, beating the Asia-Pacific region champions from the Philippines, 7-3, to reach the World Series Championship.

“It was a tournament all the way around,” said tournament director John Chadwick. “Puerto Rico happened to advance.”

Elyria came out of Pool B and lit up the South Tampa (Fla.) Little League, 10-0, in its semifinal game, scoring 10 runs in the sixth inning to reach the final. The East region champions from Nanticote, Pa., were also impressive, going 2-2 in Pool B action.

“The East was very competitive in that pool,” said Chadwich. “They didn’t have the luck that the other teams had.

“I think the softball players are getting better every year,” he added. “Softball is the up-and-coming sport for young ladies across the world.”

Take the long way home

For the first time in five years, the two teams that fought for the Senior League Baseball World Series Championship were from the United States, but neither was very close to home.

On August 22, the West region champs from Fremont, Calif., and Southwest region champs out of Houston, Texas, took the field for the title bout after beating teams from Aruba and the Philippines in their respective semifinal games. Houston, who entered the bottom of the fourth with a 7-0 lead, gave up six runs in the frame but eventually scrapped out a 9-7 win to take home the 49th Senior League World Series Championship. Approximately 1,600 people watched the game at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor, Maine.

“The field was the most balanced field that we’ve had in eight years in Bangor,” tournament director Mike Brooker said. “Asia-Pacific [the Philippines] made it to the semifinals for the first time ever, and the host team [Bangor] lost two games in extra innings. Houston played very good baseball.”

The Senior League World Series consists of 10 teams split between two pools with international and U.S. teams in each. The 2009 version was the first time the championship game pitted two American teams against each other since Pearl City, Hawaii, and Urbandale, Iowa, faced off in 2005. Two international teams have never played for the Senior League World Series.

The Southwest region champions are the second squad from Houston to make it to the Senior League World Series but the first to reach championship game. The Southwest region’s most recent successes were appearances in the semifinals in 2002 and 2007, both losses.

Houston pitcher and infielder Michael Resnick provided some fireworks throughout the tournament, launching four home runs, including one estimated at 420 feet. The quartet was the most hit by one player since Bangor began hosting the tournament eight years ago.

Italy, representing the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, made it to the Senior League World Series for the first time ever, went 1-3 but were the most fundamentally sound team in the tournament field, according to Brooker. Much of that is due to the Friuli Venezia Giulia Little League’s recent decision to bring in baseball instructors from Cuba to teach the players the basics.

“Overall, it was a really good tournament,” Brooker said. “The teams and countries represented their Little Leagues, their regions and their countries really well.”

Taking place the week leading up to the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa., the Senior League World Series is played by kids aged 14 to 16 years old.

Southern Comfort
SENIOR LEAGUE SOFTBALL – Lower Sussex, Delaware

The Southwest region champions from Calhoun, La., went undefeated on their way to the 2009 Senior League Softball World Series title in Roxana, Del. They dispatched the host team from Laurel, Del., by a close score of 3-2.

“This is probably the best one we’ve had in six years,” tournament director Martin Donovan said.

As opposed to putting the teams up in different housing like in past years, Donovan said the decision was made for this year’s teams to be housed in one motel. As a result, all the girls developed relationships with one another and a much friendlier feeling permeated the event. The attendance didn’t hurt either.

“We had about 1,500 at the championship game and about 2,000 at the semifinals,” Donovan said.

The Latin American region champs from Maunabo, Puerto Rico, fell, 4-1, to the Laurel team in the semifinals, but their sister squad took home the Junior League Softball championship. The Southwest team cruised into the final by defeating the Central region champs from South Bend, Ind., 7-1.

How the West was won
BIG LEAGUE BASEBALL – Easley, South Carolina

The 2009 Big League Baseball World Series wrapped up on August 5 with the Latin America champs from Santiago, Dominican Republic defeating the West region champs from Thousand Oaks, Calif., 12-0, in the championship game.

For the first time in Big League Baseball World Series history, the championship game aired live in prime time on ESPN, or as tournament director Jon Humphrey liked to say, “Prime Time in 2009.” Previous title games had been aired during the afternoon.

The Dominican Republic squad featured slugger Edison Flete, who went 6-for-17 (.353) with two homers, seven RBI and five walks in six games. He also won the home run derby, which was held prior to the start of the 11-team tournament. The home run derby was only part of the pre-tournament celebration, which also included a concert featuring We The Kings and Justin Beaver.

Also of note in the tournament was East outfielder Nick Keener, son of Little League President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen D. Keener. The younger Keener’s Williamsport, Pa. club went 2-2 in pool play. Stephen Keener was in attendance to watch his son play.

“He got to be a parent, so that was pretty good,” Humphrey said.

The Big League Baseball World Series, which is the final level of Little League play for boys 16 to 18 years old, concluded with a graduation banquet. Each player received a pin, medallion and diploma for completing his Little League career. Actor Luke Wilson was the guest speaker at the banquet.

The Big League Baseball World Series has been held in Easley, South Carolina for nine years in a row. Easley is roughly two hours north of Atlanta, Ga., and two hours south of Charlotte, N.C.

“It was a good tournament with a great group of kids,” Humphrey said of the 2009 Series. “They came out and played their hearts out.”

Homegrown Heroes
BIG LEAGUE SOFTBALL – Kalamazoo, Michigan

There’s nothing like playing in front of a home crowd.

In the 2009 Big League Softball World Series, played by 10 teams from all over the world ages 14-18, the host team – the District 2 champs from Kalamazoo, Mich. – used that to an advantage, taking the title with a 4-0 win over the Latin America champs from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“It was one of the best tournaments we’ve ever had, and we’ve been hosting tournaments since 1980,” said tournament director Bud Vanderberg. “And luckily, my home team won the whole thing.”

Alyssa Foy got two of Kalamazoo’s seven hits as the hosts used a three-run third to get the eventual shutout victory. District 2 would score one more in the sixth, allowing just two hits to the Puerto Rico champs.

“It was pretty fantastic because the championship game between Michigan District 2 and Puerto Rico was standing room only,” Vanderberg said. “With the television there, playing under the lights in prime time – it was pretty awesome. We were turning people away.”

A team from Michigan has won six times in the tournament’s 27-year history, all six titles coming since 2000. It was the third overall championship for a District 2 team (2000, 2006, 2009), who faced competition from Poland, the Philippines, Canada, Puerto Rico, Texas, California, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, suffering just one loss.