District I aims to repeat as Big League World Series champions

MILFORD – Shaina Reed remembers well what being a Little League World Series champion feels like.

And it’s something her and the Delaware District I Big League Softball all-stars would like to accomplish again.

Last season the squad, made up mostly of Milford Little League players but also included other Kent County girls, topped the District III (Sussex County) host team 1-0 in an eight-inning title game thriller at the Lower Sussex Little League Complex in Roxana.

Shaina Reed tossed eight scoreless innings in last year's World Series final. (The Journal/file photo)

Shaina Reed tossed eight scoreless innings in last year’s World Series final. (The Journal/file photo)

Reed went the distance from the pitcher’s circle, striking out seven in the extended shutout.

“It was crazy, because the game was so big and close,” Reed said of last year’s final. “And it was against girls we grew up playing against. It’s pretty amazing.

“Milford Little League was very proud, and District I was behind us the whole time,” added Reed, who recently helped Polytech win its first ever high school softball state championship. “We helped put Delaware on the map for softball.”

Now the team, which figures to return nearly intact, is hoping to keep Delaware there.

In order to do so, however, it will have to get back to Roxana the hard way, first going through the East Regional in Worcester, Mass.

“It’s tough,” Reed said of the competition in the regional. “We lost our first game (last year) to New York and then barely got by them (in the final) to get back to Delaware. But we’re motivated to get back to where we were last year. And our team chemistry is incredible.”

Two World Series events in Roxana

For the third straight summer, the Pyle Center will host both the Senior League and Big League World Series tournaments.

This year’s event begins Aug. 2 for both tournaments. The Senior League tourney (girls age 14-16) will play its championship on Aug. 8 with Big League (16-18) concluding a day later.

ESPN will return to televise both tournaments’ respective semifinals and finals games.

Each tournament will consist of 10 teams representing areas around the globe. Six of them are regions of the United States (including the District III host teams), and the remaining four are Canada, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and EMEA (Europe/Middle East/Africa).

“We’ve got 20 teams coming in less than 30 days,” World Series Director Martin Donovan said. “There are three (staff) meetings left then the week before we’ll all be down there getting the place (Pyle Center) ready.”

Formatting will remain the same for both tournaments, weather permitting.

Each tourney begins with two pools of five teams playing a round-robin. The top two teams from each pool record wise will advance to the semifinals, with Pool A’s victor playing second place from Pool B and vice versa.

“We try not to mess with the format too much because it’s what has worked,” said Donovan, who has coordinated the Senior Softball World Series since it first came to Roxana in 2004. “What we’ve experienced is good softball. People schedule their vacations around the World Series. Tourists spend a day at the beach, get to the park around 3 p.m. and then can watch games all the way through 10 if they want.”

As it has in the past, the World Series will have each Sussex County Little League send volunteers for specific days to help run the event.

Extra volunteers, though, are always welcome, and so too are donations. Little League is run by volunteer efforts, and while the organization is paying for housing, District III is responsible for transportation, feeding and entertaining the teams while they are in Delaware.

District I celebrates its World Series title. (The Journal/file photo)

District I celebrates its World Series title. (The Journal/file photo)

“It takes about $100,000 to run,” Donovan said. “And you can never have too much help.”

Repeat performers

Over the years, multiple leagues have sent teams back to the World Series, some several times. Last year’s Senior League champions were out of South Bend, Ind., in a repeat bid. Indiana District 11 has been a mainstay in Roxana since the World Series moved there in 2004.

Of course, the host squads will be back, with the Senior League team waiting to crown its district champion in a tournament scheduled to begin July 22.

Guy Wilkins will return to manage the District III Big League host team. Wilkins, who managed the Millsboro-Georgetown all-stars to a Big League Softball World Series championship in 2013, will have multiple players on his roster that have experienced the weeklong event.

Will District III get a chance to avenge last year’s loss in the final against the Kent County squad? Reed, for one, hopes it will at least get the opportunity.

“We all want to get back to that spot and have that feeling again,” said Reed, who will be playing softball at Florida State College at Jacksonville next year. “To say we have done it two straight times.”

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