Little League Softball World Series
WHEN: Games Thursday through Aug. 14.
Elyria Little League All-Stars’ opening game vs. Tualatin City Little League, Tualatin, Ore. — 10 a.m. Thursday
TO WATCH: Most games available via live webcast at softballworldseries.com for $14.95 per day or $29.95 for all webcast games
Semi-final games and the championship game will be on ESPN 2 Aug. 13 and 14.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit softballworldseries.com.
ELYRIA — As three convertibles carrying the red T-shirt-clad girls of the Elyria Little League East All-Stars through Vic Janowicz Memorial Park, loudspeakers pulsated with the sports anthem “Are You Ready for This?”
Judging from the sustained cheers and applause that greeted the 2013 Little League World Series-bound team when they arrived at a pavilion for Saturday night’s big send-off party, the answer is a resounding yes.
A crowd of 100-plus family, friends and supporters gathered just as they did a few weeks ago before leaving to conquer the competition in a nine-state regional tourney.
The team of 11- and 12-year-old girls are one of 10 U.S. and foreign Little League teams that will meet on the diamond in Portland, Ore., starting this coming week.
As Heather Hyer took photos of the team with her phone, the mother of 13-year-old second baseman Emily Hyer talked about how the girls have bonded over several seasons as teammates.
“Some of these girls have been together since they were 6 and 7,” Hyer said.
And now, “they’re one of the top 10 teams in the world,” Hyer said with a note of disbelief in her voice.
The past few seasons have seen the girls, parents, coaches and others sacrifice a lot to get them to this point, including year-round practices, to say nothing of scores of regular season and playoff games.
“You give a little to get a little,” Hyer said.
Despite their seemingly tender years, the team appears made up of girls who are typical kids in every way except when they step on the field.
Even as she acknowledged a few butterflies as the big trip draws closer, Faith Hamilton confidently said “I knew we could do it.”
“We’re all good hitters,” the 13-year-old third baseman and pitcher (who was 12 during the season) said.
That’s an understatement, considering the team racked up scores of 10-0, 9-1, 14-1, 11-4, 12-2, and 17-2 as they made their way through an undefeated 10-0 slate of district, state and regional playoff games.
All of the girls attend Elyria or Midview schools.
Asked what makes the team so consistently good at the plate, Faith chalked it up to her perennially pumped-up teammates — and a very supportive crowd.
“They all cheer a lot, and the girls say that helps them hit better,” Faith said.
Manager Len Howser, whose daughter, April, pitches for the team, admitted the team’s offensive domination has spoiled everyone.
“We get nervous when the other team even scores,” Howser said with a chuckle.
The team set the goal of making it to the World Series in Portland two years ago, Howser said.
The team leaves Monday where it will join nine other teams from Virginia, Texas, New Jersey, Arizona, Italy, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.
All agree that the girls’ years of playing together have much to do with their amazing success.
“They all know what each other one will do on the field,” Heather Hyer said.
Mayor Holly Brinda presented the team with a proclamation congratulating them for their season.
“You will carry this with you the rest of your lives,” Brinda told the team. “Regardless of the outcome you’re winners in the eyes of the city of Elyria.”
Saturday’s party also served as a fundraiser to generate money to help see that at least one parent of each girl gets to Oregon, according to Debbie Zerbini, mom of player Gabby Zerbini, 12, and an organizer of the trip.
Donations have also come from local firefighters, businesses and individuals.
Costs are also being borne by the Little League organization itself, according to Zerbini.
“This kind of thing doesn’t happen in Elyria,” Heather Hyer said. “They’re going to go out there (Oregon) and people will say, ‘Where are you from?’ when they say Elyria.”
Depending on what 12 girls do in Oregon over the next 10 days, everyone may soon know the answer to that question.