Russia defeats Guam 2-0 for the 1st victory by a Native European Team at LLWS
Wild 14 - 13 game teaches an important lesson: Never give up!
Japan wins the World Series Title for the 3rd time in 4 years
More than 325,000 baseball fans attended the ten-day, sixteen team, 2003 Little League World Series Tournament in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The tournament was particularly well attended this year - in fact there was an All-Time Attendance Record! Excellent late August weather and local team participation (Wilmington, Delaware, only 3 hours from Williamsport, qualified for the first time in its history) helped put extra people in the seats to watch the 11-12 year olds battle it out for the championship.
The 2003 Tournament had many memorable highlights including the first victory by a true European Region native team (all players born in the represented country) since the World Series was expanded to include sixteen teams in 2001. Moscow, Russia surprised Guam with a 2-0 victory. The game was a 0-0 tie after 5 innings and Moscow didn't even have a hit at that time. However, they scored two runs in the final inning to shock the Pacific Region Champions. This result proves that the talent of players from the European Region is continuing to improve and they can hold their own with players/teams from around the world. Congratulations to Khovrino Little League, Moscow, Russia for making history!
A fight to the finish
Another highlight was an amazing game played between two talented U.S. teams - Massachusetts vs. Texas. The winner of the game was slated to advance to the semi-finals of the tournament. The writer, along with members of his family, (including Mr Edward Piszek, Chairman of the Copernicus Foundation) were in attendance when the team from Massachusetts bolted to a 10 to 4 lead after five innings. Game over. Right? Wrong! In one of the most bizarre games in Little League World Series history, the team from Texas refused to give up and battled back to score six runs in the final inning to miraculously tie the game and send it into extra innings. Oh! I forgot to mention the writer and his family departed the stadium for our hotel before the final inning, figuring the game was over given the score (and to beat the traffic!). When we arrived back at the hotel an unidentified man in the lobby yelled, "You won't believe it . Texas just tied the game up!" We looked at each other in disbelief and told the man he was crazy . and to stop drinking! He insisted that he was telling the truth and then led our group to a television in the back of the lobby with the game on (most Little League World Series games are televised live throughout the entire United States on ESPN and ABC Sports). Then we realized he wasn't kidding! Now the game really took an unbelievable turn. In the top of the 7th inning Texas scored another three runs to take a seemingly insurmountable 13-10 lead. But wait! Somehow, someway, the Massachusetts team in its final at-bat, scored four runs to win in dramatic, come from behind fashion . and we left the game early! Agh! The game proved that you should never, ever give up, no matter what the score. It's a great life lesson and one that the writer needs to learn himself!
While the Massachusetts team won this memorable game, they lost their next game to Florida in the U.S. Championship. With the win, Florida won the right to face a talent-laden Japanese team for the Little League World Series Title. Florida wound up being no match for the team from Tokyo who blasted a record-tying fifteen home runs during the entire tournament. Japan scored eight runs in the fourth inning of the Championship game versus Florida's top pitcher to put the game away and defeat Florida 10 -1 in front of 41,000 baseball fans at Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Oh, BY THE WAY. We stayed for the whole game. We learned our lesson the hard way!
Until next season, Play Ball!