North Carolina has fielded only a handful of teams in the Little League Baseball World Series. But Greenville now lays claim to two of them.
When the North State All Stars defeated a Georgia squad 8-6 on Aug. 9, completing a 4-0 sweep in the Southeast Regional, they became just the fifth North Carolina team to reach the highly-coveted stage.
“I’ve used the word thrilled more this week than I have in my entire life,” Jake Allen, one of the team coaches, said Aug. 11.
When the players returned home Aug. 10, they were ushered by police escort to Elm Street Park and greeted by a crowd of fans, WITN reported.
That scene is captured in a Facebook Live video by Pirate Radio that team manager Brian Fields shared to his page, thanking the community for its support. Allen said hundreds of people greeted the team at the park.
“This community is amazing,” Fields wrote in the post.
Good baseball is breeding good baseball in the Greenville youth program.
The North State team is made up entirely of 12-year-olds sourced from different teams in the Greenville area. They came up having to learn how to be competitive against older, more skilled players within the program, Allen said.
“That puts them on a fast-pace learning curve,” Allen said. “Our program is evolving. This year, our 9-10 team won their regional. The 11-year-olds did the same thing. We all three won basically the Southeast Regional.”
The Little League World Series will be played Aug. 17-27 in Williamsport, Pa. The North State team’s opening game in the double-elimination tournament is set for 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, against the Midwest Regional champ in a game televised on ESPN.
Greenville’s other World Series appearance came in 1998, by the Tar Heel All Stars.
A Morganton team made the semifinal but went no further after a loss to a team from Richmond, Texas, in 2004. A team from Clemmons went winless in the 2002 Series.
The state’s first entry came in 1952 out of the town of Mooresville, near Charlotte.