Big pride

O, BY THE WAY

On Little League

For Hagerstown, on to Williamsport

August 13, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

Baltimore baseball fans have an internal clock that normally tells them to shut it down by this time of the summer and turn their rooting interest to the Ravens and the NFL. A decade of losing seasons at Camden Yards has had its effect, though the 2008 Orioles have done a better job of holding fans' attention.

But there's certainly no postseason in the offing.

However, before you pack away the diamond dreams for the season, you might want to check in on the Maryland representatives in the Little League World Series. The team from Hagerstown won the eighth and final spot among United States teams for the big show in Williamsport, Pa., by beating a team from Pennsylvania, 8-3, on Monday in the Mid-Atlantic regional tournament in Bristol, Conn.

The Hagerstown kids are now part of a 16-team field that begins play Friday for kids 11 and 12 years old. There are eight teams from the U.S., a team from the U.S. territory of Guam and seven international squads. The Maryland team's first opponent is from Jeffersonville, Ind., representing the Great Lakes Region (8 p.m., ESPN).

The Hagerstown youngsters are undefeated so far (13-0) in their march to Williamsport, and, in a game that was televised Monday night, they jumped on the kids from Pennsylvania with four home runs, including two by Zane Schreiber, who had a grand slam to center field.

The Little League World Series tournament is divided into four brackets with the Maryland club in Pool A along with teams from Indiana, Washington and Louisiana. Last year, Maryland was represented in Little League's Sweet 16 by West Salisbury. Maryland has never had a team play for the championship.

Of course, the great thing about the Little League World Series is that just making it there is an enormous achievement, regardless of what the scores wind up being in Williamsport. Unquestionably, it's tougher getting to this World Series than the one played by the big league mercenaries in October.

For area baseball fans, it's just a thrill to have a team to root for in August in a situation where there's still something at stake. And at the end of it all, there's a sense of pride that the local team gave it everything it had.

U.S. women advancing

Speaking of sources of pride, another team that evokes that sentiment is the U.S. women's soccer team, which was dealt a cruel blow in its final warm-up for the Olympics when top offensive player Abby Wambach suffered a broken leg against archrival Brazil.

The American women beat New Zealand, 4-0, yesterday to improve their record to 2-1 and advance to the tournament quarterfinals. Better yet, their goal differential advantage over Norway (also 2-1 in its division) allows the U.S. to avoid Brazil for the time being.

The United States had scored just one goal in its two previous games but got four from four different players to advance to the quarters against Canada.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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