BRISTOL - Last year they lost by one run to the New York team that went on to become Little League World Series champions.
But this year, 12-year-old Timothy Hitchcock and 11-year-old Gage Joseph, both with the Milton Little League team from Milton, Del., are ready to take on the other Mid-Atlantic Regional finalists in the 2017 Little League Baseball Eastern Regional tournament.
“It feels good, nervous,” said Gage, who arrived at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center with his team at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday. “It’s really exciting because we get to be on TV.” This is Gage’s first Eastern Regional tourney.
Their team will play at the Giamatti Center along with 11 others starting today in a tournament that will decide who will go to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. The World Series, which starts Aug. 17, also features the Little League teams from around the world that have won their regional tournaments.
The Eastern Regional hosts the Eastern and Mid-Atlantic Region state champions, pitting the best teams in the East against one another in games televised on ESPN. The winners, one from the Eastern Region and one from the Mid-Atlantic Region, advance to the Little League World Series.
“It’s very exciting,” said Assistant East Region Director Amry Shelby. “It’s a very, very big deal to these young gentlemen. They’ll be playing on ESPN, so their friends and family at home can watch, and they have the opportunity to advance to the World Series.”
The teams are made up of 10- to 12-year-olds who stay in dorms at the center with their managers. They say goodbye to their parents - who stay at area hotels - and spend six days playing ball and getting to know one another, Shelby said.
“They make lifelong friends,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere.”
The Eastern Regional will feature the Milton team from Delaware; the Fairfield American team from Fairfield, Conn.; the North Washington team from the District of Columbia; the South Portland American team from South Portland, Maine; the Thurmont team from Thurmont, Md.; the Holden team from Holden, Mass.; the Goffstown Junior Baseball team from Goffstown, N.H.; the Holbrook team from Jackson, N.J.; the Plainview team from Plainview, N.Y.; the Upper Providence team from Oaks, Pa.; the Cumberland American team from Cumberland, R.I.; and the Essex Junction team from Essex Junction, Vt.
The tournament kicked off with an opening ceremony Saturday night that honored veterans. Admission to the games is free.
The schedule of games is available online at www.eteam2.com/llbeast or at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center at 335 Mix St. The games will be played at the Giamatti Center.
Timothy Hitchcock is a returning player whose team nearly took down the New York team that went on to win the Little League World Series. “It’s pretty good to be back,” he said.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.