PRESTON — District 6 Little League playoffs began just a few days ago, and there have already been plenty of celebrations.
The first took place Wednesday night, June 26, when the first district title of 2019 was awarded. Grabbing the first banner of the playoffs was the Caroline Little League softball team, which swept a best-of-three set against Dorchester to take top honors in the 10-12-year-old bracket.
Caroline, which won the first game Tuesday 4-0, at Preston Elementary School, won 10-9 the following night to earn a berth in the state tournament, which begins July 6 in Sharpsburg.
Now known as District 6, the team will take on the District 5 champ that day at 11 a.m. Jason Smith is the head coach. If the team wins the state tournament, its next stop is the East Regional, which begins July 20, in Bristol, Conn.
The next District 6 bracket to finish was senior league baseball, at Worton Park. The 2018 state champ Caroline, looking reloaded rather than rebuilt, was back to its old ways, posting blowout wins in every game.
Opening up on June 25, Caroline, which includes players who attend Colonel Richardson, North Caroline, and Queen Anne’s County High Schools, defeated Tri-City 16-3 to advance to the win bracket final of the three-team district playoffs. On Wednesday, Caroline defeated tournament host Kent County 13-0 to advance to the district championship.
Thursday, in the loss-bracket championship, Tri-City eliminated Kent County, 21-9, to earn a rematch with Caroline. On Friday, Caroline won again, however, topping Tri-City, 10-0, to advance to states.
Jerry Stewart, who shares the head coaching duties with Warren White and Mike Willoughby, will guide the repeat District 6 champs into the state tournament next week.
Caroline will take on the District 7 champ at 11 a.m. July 6 at Chesapeake City Little League, about 40 minutes north of Chestertown. If they repeat as state champs, Caroline will have quite a journey ahead of it.
The Senior League Baseball Eastern Regional tournament, which had been hosted by West Deptford, N.J., since 1991, has been moved this year, to a venue many in Talbot County will remember from 2011: Bangor, Maine.
Shawn Mansfield Stadium, located directly behind the home of well-known horror novelist Stephen King (he put up a good deal of money to help build the stadium, and even coached there, as I recall), was the site of the Senior League Baseball World Series for two decades.
However, recent changes in Little League’s offered levels of play led to a relocation of that event from Bangor, a pleasant college town with some nice restaurants and the Cole Land Transportation Museum, a very underrated repository of a lot of historical automobiles, tractors, trains, and much more.
Big League Baseball, which was for ages 16-18, folded after the 2016 season due to stagnant numbers. As a result, the venue for the Senior League World Series was moved from Bangor to Easley, S.C., the former Big League site.
From what District 6 officials told me at the time the move was announced, Bangor was considered “too remote” to host a World Series.
Yeah, you read that right.
Central Maine was considered too remote to host a worldwide event in a sport which has held games on aircraft carriers in the Pacific Ocean, in the barren wastes of the Sahara Desert, and near the North and South Poles. But I digress.
Perhaps as a sop to the Mainers who loved their deep-playoff Senior League ball, the Eastern Regional was moved to Bangor for 2019 — a 12-hour drive from the Mid-Shore, especially if they make the same mistake I made in 2011 and take I-95 across the northern tip of Manhattan and get caught in Saturday afternoon traffic.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Dave has since learned to take I-287, and the Tappan Zee Bridge, around the New York metro area instead of going right up 95, if forced to drive that far north; it saves time and the view is nicer.)
The Senior Eastern Regional’s dates were not published as of Saturday night, but will most likely be sometime between July 14-20, as the Senior World Series begins July 27 in Easley.
Next to finish was the 8-10-year-old baseball bracket, which played from June 24 through Saturday night at North Easton Park.
Tri-City and Homerun Baker squared off in the final of the double-elimination bracket, which was an exciting one to watch.
Tri-City, knocked into the loss bracket on the first night of the tournament by Homerun Baker, which won the teams’ opener, 18-7.
Tri-City then began an impressive run when it knocked out the other three participants in the five-team bracket. On Tuesday, the team eliminated Kent, 10-8. Wednesday, Tri-City defeated tournament host Easton, 8-5, and on Thursday, ousted Cambridge, 15-9, to earn a rematch with HRB in the championship on Friday evening.
Tri-City, needing to defeat Homerun Baker twice to take the district crown, won Friday night, 12-4, avenging Monday’s loss and setting up a winner-take-all second championship game Saturday evening.
Mother Nature had other plans, though, as thunderstorms blew through the Mid-Shore area on Saturday, causing first a time change for the game, and then a postponement. Tri-City and Homerun Baker will play at 6 p.m. for the district title, and a trip to the state tournament in South Baltimore, at 11:30 a.m. on July 13.
If you haven’t had the chance to go out for Little League playoffs yet, please do so. Yeah, it’ll be warm — it’s July. It happens. But the kids deserve it. Go watch a game. Admission is free, and the root beer is always cold!