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Series was first class all the way

by: Miles Vance SERIES HIGHLIGHTS — The play of Central’s Kyle Burkett (left) helped their team win its first-ever World Series title.

Did you see it?

Please tell me that you didn't blink and miss it. Please tell me you weren't home on the couch the whole time.

It was here, it was big-time, it was great, and now it's gone.

I sure as heck hope you didn't miss it.

The annual Little League Softball World Series, held Aug. 11-17 at Alpenrose Dairy in Southwest Portland (and just minutes from Beaverton), was everything a World Series should be.

You want great competition? This version of the Series - now well into its second decade of competition at Alpenrose - had it. Eventual Series champion Sterling, Ill., edged past Waco, Texas, 2-0 in its pool play opener, survived another pool play challenge from Westchester-Del Ray by a 7-2 margin, then took care of Waco again in the championship, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to secure its first Series title 7-5.

And the two teams in the championship - as well as 'B' pool champion Wilkes County Little League - could really, really play. Sterling pitcher Alexis Staples had velocity and location that belied her youthful age. Southwest's Chandlar Coskrey, Katie Guffey and Jordyn Baugh proved they could just flat swing the stick, banging out two hits each in the championship. And Wilkes - which lost to Southwest 9-5 in a semifinal thriller - had a potent combination of pitching, hitting and defense.

What about great crowds? If that was your thing, this World Series had it. Attendance at the Aug. 17 final was estimated (admission to the Little League World Series is free) at 2,000, while the two semifinal games held on Aug. 16 were just as big.

Further, Willow Creek - the local qualifier from Oregon District 4 - had large local crowds on hand to cheer at almost all of its tournament games.

Great representation? Oh yeah. In addition to some of the U.S. teams making their first appearances (including Willow Creek), newcomers from across the globe included: Muntinlupa Little League of Muntinlupa City in the Philippines; Windsor South Little League of Windsor, Ontario; Lombardia Little League of Milano, Italy; and ASOFEM Little League of Maunabo, Puerto Rico.

The Muntinlupa team - which became the first Asia-Pacific champion to ever reach the World Series semifinals - had to travel more than 6,700 miles to get to the Series.

Lombardia, which placed ninth overall, logged more than 5,500 miles on the long, long road to Alpenrose.

And ASOFEM, the Latin America champion, placed fifth in the Series after notching a one-way road trip of 3,744 miles to get to the Series.

Let me add one more factor that helped this Series to be great yet again - great organization. The World Series has big-time, World Series-class people running the show at Alpenrose.

From the Cadonau family that owns Alpenrose and allows the Series to be held there each year, to the folks who run the media trailer and help teams and their representatives get where they're going every day, to the ESPN crews who show up for the tournament semifinals and championship, to the grounds crews who put Alpenrose's fields into top-notch condition, to the scores of volunteers who take care of so many important behind-the-scenes details - from all of those folks, it was first class all the way.