The big city near us is a "baseball town". For over fifty years it has been the home of the Billings Mustangs--a rookie minor league team that represents the Cincinnati Reds. It has a long, proud history with its American Legion teams with both local teams making it to the regional tournament before the Scarletts lost in the championship to Hawaii. Now you can add the Big Sky Little League team to that picture as they are the Northwest Regional champions in the 65th Little League Baseball World Series. The big city--as well as the whole state--has caught the baseball fever as this is the first-ever team to make it to the world series.
It is not a simple process to get a team to the Little League World Series. It begins with an all-star chosen at the end of the season to represent the league in a district tournament to see who qualifies for the state tournament. All the district champs play one another at the state tournament to see who ends up representing the state in the regional tournament. At the regional tournament the teams have pool play to determine which four teams (two from each pool) make it to the actual tournament of four. Out of these four teams comes the eventual regional champ. The regional champ is then the representative to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Big Sky Little League came out of the baseball pilgrimage to Williamsport as the Northwest Regional champs with a 17 and 1 record--they avenged their only loss in dramatic fashion against the Oregon team in the championship game, 7 to 1.
Pat Zimmer, winning pitcher, kept the game close in the
championship game . . .
. . . until Cole McKenzie hit a grand slam home run
in the fifth ending to blow the game open on the way to a
7 to 1 victory and the championship.
Having punched their ticket to the series in Williamsport the team is now on the last leg of the journey towards being world champions. That is actual WORLD CHAMPIONS. The Little League World Series is an actual championship tournament that involves teams from all over the planet. There are eight teams representing the American side of the tournament, and eight teams representing the international side of the tournament. Each side of the tournament plays until there is one team standing from each side. Those two teams then play the championship to determine who the best in the world is for 2011.
Big Sky Little League/Northwest Region Champs
The boys begin their adventure this afternoon with a game against the Midwest Champions--the Rapid City, South Dakota team--that will mark history for both teams. For Big Sky it will be the first-ever appearance in the World Series, and for one of them it will mark the first-ever victory by either team in the world series. Both these teams come from a rich baseball heritage--especially as their American Legion teams have a rivalry that is played out each summer. Both teams are coming in with high hopes. But as one fan from Montana put it: "In any kind of baseball, especially Little League, anything can happen, but I like our chances."
Optimism reigns supreme at tournament time and the state of Montana is rooting for their team at the Little League World Series where anything can happen. All around the big city and state people will be gathering together to root the team on to victory--these have become "our boys". Whatever happens they will represent the community, state, and region with dignity and pride. Go Big Sky . .
. . . I like our chances!