The Little League World Series is back on in South Williamsport, Pa., and the first salvo has been fired for teams taking the long qualification path to the Keystone State.
This year’s Little League World Series tournament is scheduled Aug. 19-29 for 16 United States-based teams. There will not be an international field this year — the first time since 1975.
Before domestic teams can get there, however, they will have to successfully navigate elimination play at the district, section, divisional and regional levels.
The Little League West Region championship tournament is scheduled Aug. 8-14 in San Bernardino.
The journey starts at the district level for East County teams from California District 41.
California District 41 Little League serves 15 member leagues: Alpine American Little League, El Cajon National Little League, El Cajon Western Little League, Fletcher Hills Little League, Jamul Little League, Julian Little League, Lakeside American Little League, Lakeside National Little League, Mountain Empire Little League, Rancho de Oro Little League, Rios Canyon Little League, Santana National Little League, Santee Pioneer Little League, Singing Hills Little League and West Hills Little League.
Each district has its own qualification process to determine its district all-star champion. Teams may participate in round-robin pool play while also participating in double-elimination bracket play.
Championship games wrapped up last weekend.
Only the 12U division leads to the Little League World Series. The 10U, 11U, 13U, 14U and 16U divisions will end at the state level this year.
Parade of champions
This year’s District 41 East County champions included Rancho de Oro (10U, 11U and 13U/Intermediate Division), Fletcher Hills Little League (12U) and Santana National (Senior Division).
Alpine American Little League hosted the 10U all-star tournament. Six teams participated in double-elimination bracket play. Rancho de Oro completed tourney play 3-0 to win this year’s championship banner.
Rancho de Oro opened tourney play with a 10-2 win over Lakeside American on July 6 after Lakeside National had defeated Rios Canyon by a score of 22-2 on July 5.
Rancho de Oro defeated Fletcher Hills (11-8 winners over Alpine on July 6) by a score of 7-5 in the winner’s bracket final on July 8. Previously, Alpine American eliminated Lakeside National by a score of 6-3 in a loser’s bracket game on July 8.
Fletcher Hills shut out Alpine American, 10-0, in the loser’s bracket final on July 9 to gain a berth in the July 10 championship game.
Rancho de Oro completed its championship run to this year’s division title with an 18-1 win over Fletcher Hills to advance to sectional play.
Two teams participated in the 11U all-star best-of-three championship series at Rancho de Oro Little League. Rancho de Oro swept the series against Fletcher Hills by scores of 12-3 on July 10 and 10-0 on July 11.
Fletcher Hills and Rancho de Oro little leagues hosted the 12U all-star tournament.
Fletcher Hills completed the six-team double-elimination bracket with an undefeated 4-0 record.
Fletcher Hills faced off tourney play July 6 with a 9-6 win over Alpine American, then blanked Rancho de Oro, 12-0, on July 7.
Fletcher Hills continued its winning ways with a 7-2 win over Singing Hills on July 9.
Singing Hills defeated West Hills, 5-4, in an elimination game on July 10 to rematch with Fletcher Hills in the championship game on July 11.
Fletcher Hills made sure there would be no double-elimination game with a 16-2 win to add an exclamation point to district play.
The next level
The Section 7 Senior Division tournament took place July 2-7 at Spring Valley Little League.
District champions from District 41 (Santana National), District 42 (Sweetwater Valley) and District 66 (Lemon Grove) participated.
Sweetwater Valley defeated Santana National, 24-2, to blast off the event on July 2 while
Sweetwater Valley defeated Lemon Grove, 8-3, on July 3.
Lemon Grove defeated Santana National, 20-5, in a loser’s bracket game on July 5 to meet Sweetwater Valley on July 6. Lemon Grove returned the favor by defeating the District 42 champion by a score of 7-6.
The teams met in a double-elimination contest on July 7. Lemon Grove won another nail-biter over Sweetwater Valley, 5-4, to capture the section banner.
Lemon Grove advances to the Southern California division tournament hosted by San Diego District 32 Little League.
The Intermediate Division sectional included three teams: Rancho de Oro (District 41), Southwest (District 42) and Valley de Oro (District 66). Games took place July 1-5 at Sweetwater Valley Little League.
Rancho de Oro swept through the competition with three commanding victories. The District 41 champions opened the tournament with an 18-1 win over Valley de Oro and swept Southwest by scores of 14-4 on July 2 and 18-1 on July 5 to advance to the Southern California divisional tournament hosted by District 32.
Southwest eliminated Valley de Oro by a score of 24-8 on July 3 in a loser’s bracket contest to gain a rematch against Rancho de Oro.
The Little League Softball World Series is scheduled Aug. 11-18 in Greenville, N.C. and will include 10 teams. It will expand to 12 teams next year.