The Little League World Series is fun to watch for a multitude of reasons. The kids involved are usually so passionate about the game, and you can see the joy they have while playing leap off their faces in every moment. Also, it’s fun to see kids realize their dreams. It’s fun to see these great young athletes realize that they have the potential to do great things in baseball. I mean just take a look back at LLWS teams from the past. You’re bound to find some familiar names.
Michael Conforto, Yusmeiro Petit, Jurickson Profar, Lance Lynn, Randal Grichuk, Jonathan Schoop, Cody Bellinger, and Todd Frazier are just a few of the names you’ll come across who participated in MLB games this season.
Obviously, trying to predict which of these kids could grow up to be MLB stars when they get older is ridiculous. Not only would that be overly superficial after watching these athletes play just a few games, but also these kids don’t need that kind of pressure placed on their shoulders. They love the game. They don’t need some schmuck behind a keyboard who wasn’t good enough to go pro telling them that they’re destined for greatness. However, we can still appreciate the feats of greatness that some of these kids are accomplishing.
Take Texas’s Ella Bruning. She is the only girl competing in the LLWS this year — the 20th to ever compete in any LLWS — and just the third ever to record multiple hits in a single LLWS. Last night, Bruning made a serious impact in her team’s 6-0 win over Sammamish, Was. She scored the very first run of the game after recording a single to left field and a stolen base. She followed that up with a single to right field in the sixth inning. Bruning isn’t the first female to compete and succeed in the LLWS. Who could forget Mo’ne Davis from the 2014 LLWS Philadelphia team? She was so good, she even made it to the cover of Sports Illustrated, and then she got to compete in the annual NBA Celebrity All-Star Game. That was nuts!
However, it’s now Bruning’s time to shine. She has an opportunity to become the first girl to be part of a LLWS championship team. Only two females have ever been on teams with winning records in the LLWS. Sayaka Tsushima (Osaka, Japan) was part of the runner-up team in 1998. They went 3-2. The only other was Sanoe Aina (Waipahu, Hawaii), whose team went 2-1 in the 2002 LLWS, but lost in pool play.
Bruning’s team (Abilene, Texas) is widely considered one of the best in the tournament. Go out there and give them a run for their money, Abilene!
But Bruning isn’t the only athlete stealing the show in Williamsport. South Dakota southpaw Gavin Weir has been absolutely dominant on the mound. The 12-year-old Weir struck out 30 hitters in two pitching appearances in the regional tournament, and was arguably better in his first game of the LLWS. Last night against Louisiana, Weir allowed no hits through 5.2 innings (LLWS games are only six innings long). He struck out 15 Louisiana batters along the way, meaning only two hitters had the privilege of putting the ball in play against Weir. Oh, he also drove in one of his team’s two runs. Weir is so good that when he plays ball in Sioux Falls (his hometown), they match him up against 14-year-olds.
There is a system in place that disallows teams from exclusively throwing one pitcher throughout the entire tournament. South Dakota’s head coach Mike Gorsett said he did not want to use one of Weir’s starts so early in the tournament, but felt he needed to because Louisiana would be throwing out their ace, Nick Brown, who, according to Gorsett, was “very comparable to [Weir].” Brown did pitch well, throwing a complete game and allowing just two runs on four hits, but he was clearly outmatched by Weir, who would consistently hit speeds of over 70 miles per hour with his fastball. South Dakota has a very tough stretch ahead of them though as Weir will not be able to pitch the team’s next game — set to take place tomorrow against Oregon, who just took down Pennsylvania by a score of 8-2.
Due to COVID concerns, this is the first Little League World Series not to include international teams since 1975. That means that the American athletes have a great opportunity to step into the spotlight and make a name for themselves, whether it be through great play or memorable quotes like “Big Al” Alfred Delia. Hopefully, as the tournament progresses, we’ll see more and more kids get that moment in the limelight.