The final four is set in the 39th annual Junior League Baseball World Series at Taylor’s Heritage Park.
At 3 p.m. today, Asia-Pacific champion Shing Ming Junior Little League from Taoyuan City, Chinese Taipei, plays the Radames Lopez Little League of Guayama, Puerto Rico for the International championship.
At 6 p.m., the USA West regional champ from the Golden Hill Little League from Fullerton, California, plays the USA Southeast regional champ from the Viera Suntree Little League in Melbourne, Florida.
The winners of today’s games play for the JLWS world championship at noon Sunday.
Heritage Park is located at 12111 Pardee Road. Admission is $5 per carload per day, which includes parking. Today’s games will be streamed on ESPN+ through the ESPN App or the website www.espnplus.com. (The fee is $4.99 per month.) The world championship game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
The Asia-Pacific champs are seeking a seventh straight world title for teams from Chinese Taipei and eighth overall. Teams from Puerto Rico have won five JLWS world championships. Teams from the West region have won 10 world titles in the 39-year history of the JLWS. Teams from the Southeast region have won nine global crowns.
Chinese Taipei (3-0) and California (2-0) are undefeated this week. Puerto Rico (3-1) and Florida (3-1) secured their spots in the pool championship games by winning Thursday. Both title games will be rematches of games played earlier in the week.
The eight-day World Series is for teams of 13- and 14-year-old players from around the globe. The tournament is run in a “modified double-elimination format.” Teams play until they lose twice. At this point in the tournament, it becomes a single-elimination event with the winners advancing.
The Junior League Baseball World Series is considered the “older brother” of the more famous Little League World Series for 12-year-olds that is played in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The JLWS was founded in Taylor, Michigan, in 1981 by a group of Little League enthusiasts and volunteers – and has been played at Heritage Park ever since. Greg Bzura has remained director since its inception.
Twelve teams started the World Series last Sunday – six in the USA Pool and six in the International Pool. Besides California and Florida, the USA teams were Michigan District 5 champion and Host team Taylor, Michigan; East region champ Berlin, Maryland; Southwest region champ Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Central region champ Johnston, Iowa. Besides Chinese Taipei and the national champions of Puerto Rico, the International Pool includes Latin America champ Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico; the Australian national champ from Perth, West Australia; the Europe-Africa region champ from Bologna, Italy; and the Canadian national champ from Medicine Hat, Alberta.
Home Run Derby
The annual Junior League World Series Home Run Derby gets under way at noon Friday on the secondary field at the Taylor South Little League complex. Every player in the JLWS is invited to participate. Staff members pitch. The five players who hit the most home runs advance to the finals, which will take place after Friday’s 6 p.m. at World Series Field. The winner gets prizes and his photo in the program next year.
Melbourne, Florida 13, Taylor, Michigan 9: Florida earned a rematch with California for the USA championship. Before a pro-Taylor crowd, the USA Southeast champions came from behind to defeat the Michigan District 5 champs and host team from Taylor, 13-9. The boys from the Viera Suntree Little League scored eight runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to eclipse a 9-5 Taylor lead. The Michigan team had scored six times in the top of the sixth in one of the most exciting games of the World Series. Florida was trailing 9-8 when Logan Keith hit a two-run home run to put his team up to stay. Teammate Apollos Horrell had a three-run homer earlier in the inning. Florida had 12 hits in the game – two each by Keith, Cole Smith and Luke McDonough. Luc Iten went 2-for-3, scored twice and knocked in a pair. Taylor had 14 hits. Aiden Steele and Cole Loftis each hit 3-for-4. Steele scored twice and Loftis had three RBI. Teammate Drew Thorning was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI. Blake Boike also had two hits. The game lasted two hours and 14 minutes and had a 43-minute rain delay. Florida improved to 3-1. Taylor — made up of all-star players from the Taylor North Central, Northeast and Northwest Little Leagues – fell to 2-2. The team’s two wins came in elimination games with USA Central champion Iowa and East champ Maryland.
Guayama, Puerto Rico 2, Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico 1: Henry Clausell got Puerto Rico’s only hit of the ball game. It was a solo home run in the fourth inning that put the Radames Lopez Little League all-stars up for good, 2-1. Mexico pitchers Isaac Miranda and Erick Vazquez combined on a six-inning one-hitter, walking eight and striking out 10. Puerto Rico went up 1-0 in the first inning and Mexico tied it at 1-1 in the third. Mexico had five hits, two by Samuel Juarez. Puerto Rico pitcher Carlos Ortiz went the first six innings, walking one and striking out six. Jose Ortiz pitched the last inning and earned the save. Puerto Rico improved to 3-1. Mexico, which fell to 2-2, is out of contention.
Story by Dave Gorgon
Picture by Rob Allor