Field Set For BLWS

EASLEY — The final regional qualifying tournament for the Big League World Series was finished Sunday afternoon, so now all that remains is 11 teams from across the world gathering in Easley this week to determine the best 15-18 year-old baseball team in the world.
The host team is South Carolina District 1, hoping to win its first title since 2007, when the locals took the crown for the fourth time in five years. Gregg Powell, city of Easley athletic director, has served as the manager for each of the four title teams.
Ten other teams will round out the scorecard for the eight-day tournament, in which the teams will be divided into two pools: U.S. and International. Next Tuesday, the top two teams in each pool will play for a chance to play next Wednesday for the world championship.
U.S. Qualifiers
Five regional champions will join S.C. District 1 in competing for the domestic side of the championship.
U.S. South — District 12 Florida returns to the BLWS, breaking a five-year run by South Carolina District 7, the South Carolina state champions. Florida defeated S.C. District 7 by a 4-2 final in the U. S. South Tournament. This will be Florida District 12’s fourth trip to Easley for the BLWS, last coming in 2005. Florida District 12 was the U.S. South representative in 2001, the first year the BLWS was held in Easley. Although the team is always very competitive, Florida is still looking for its first trip to the finals in Easley.
U.S. East — For the fifth straight year, District 3 from Cumberland, N.J., won the U.S. East tournament, held in Dover, Delaware. Cumberland defeated Williamsport, Penn., 4-1 in the finals of a seven-team double elimination tournament. Williamsport was the U.S. East representative in 2001, the first year the BLWS was held in Easley.
U.S. Central — Indiana District 10 will make its first appearance in the Big League World Series in Easley this week. Indiana defeated five-time Central champions Michigan District 9 — the host team for the tournament which is played in Wyoming, Mich. — 4-1 in the championship game. District 10 becomes the second team from Indiana to play in the Big League World Series in Easley. Indiana District 5 was the U.S. Central representative in 2001, the first time the tournament was held in Easley.
U.S. West — Anahiem, Calif., District 46 will be the U.S. West representative, having defeated Hawaii in the tournament championship game, 3-1, July 20. Anaheim had defeated Arizona 3-0 in the semi-finals, while Hawaii topped Northern Calif. 7-1. Anaheim becomes the 10th consecutive team representing Southern California to represent the U.S. West in the Big League World Series. Anaheim also won the U.S. West regional last year, as well as in 2008 and 2004. The other six years the West Representative was Thousand Oaks (District 13).
U.S. Southwest — In 2002, Big League Baseball created the U.S. Southwest division to relieve overcrowding in the U.S. South and U.S. West divisions. Rushton, La. — the host of the Southwest tournament for the past 10 years — has won the tournament every year except one. But this year, Larado Little League, from Larado, Texas, won the four-team double elimination tourney, held in Alexandria, La. Texas West opened by defeating the home team 10-1. Larado followed up with a 7-5 win over Texas East. Louisiana District 2 then came from the loser’s bracket after a 15-2 win over Texas East, only to lose to Larado 6-5 in the title game.
International Qualifiers
Puerto Rico — In 2006, league officials looked for a way to include a second Latin American team in the Big League World Series. A decision was made to create a second spot in the tournament that would rotate between Puerto Rico and Mexico, the two teams who most frequently won the regional tournament. The team who did not take the automatic spot would then compete in the Latin America Regional to earn a bid to the Big League World Series. Since receiving the second Latin American bid in the BLWS, only twice — 2007 and 2011 — have the teams been Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Latin America — The second Latin American bid this season goes to Venezuela, 6-2 winners over Guatemala in the final game of the Latin American Regional. Venezuela had defeated Mexico 4-0 in the semi-finals, while Guatemala had defeated Aruba 8-5 in the other semi-finals game. Venezuela is returning to the Big League World Series in Easley for a third time, previously appearing in the 2005 and 2001 BLWS.
EMEA — This spot in the Big League World Series was originally referred to as Europe, but was changed after South Africa filled the role in 2003. Now the regional’s letters stand for Europe-Middle East-Africa. This year, Italy won the tournament, which was held in Buttrio, Germany. Italy defeated South Africa 3-0 in the championship game. The two-time defending tourney champions Netherlands lost to Germany 13-2 in the consolation game.
Asia-Pacific — The Philippines won the Asia-Pacific title for the third straight time, advancing from the regional over Guam and Saipan despite all three teams sporting an identical 2-2 record. The Muntinlupa Little Leaguers will represent the Philippines in Easley.
Canada — The Canadian regional shows the danger of scheduling so many games near the time for the Big League World Series. The championship round was scheduled for Saturday, but all games were postponed due to rain. That left the winning team traveling from Quebec to Easley Sunday and Monday. Fortunately, Canada is not scheduled to play until Thursday night. Ontario West beat Maritimes 3-1 in the championship game, advancing to the Big League World Series. Both teams were 2-1 in pool play. None of the eight teams in the tournament escaped pool play unbeaten.