For the past 13 years, softball teams from across the world have made their way to the Pyle Center in Roxana for the Senior and Big League World Series. For the first time in Lower Sussex Little League history, however, this year’s docket will include a team from China, set to represent Asia Pacific in Big League play.
“They just got their airplane tickets booked, so we know they’re coming for sure,” said Director Martin Donovan. “I’m anxious to see the response from the China team. Foreign teams always seem to draw an audience that we didn’t expect.”
“This is our 13th year in the World Series, and we’ve never had a team from China before, so it’s exciting. I think it will draw a lot of hometown people,” said Lower Sussex Little League President Bruce Layton. “That is unique. That’s a long flight in here, I can tell you that.”
While the Chinese team was one of the first to qualify for the series this year and the final pool has yet to be decided, the Pyle Center could also see another first, with the Lower Sussex Senior League All-Stars set to face Millsboro/Georgetown in their first game of the District 3 bracket on Wednesday, July 20, (after Coastal Point press time).
As Junior League All-Stars in 2015, the Lower Sussex team not only won the district, but the state title as well, earning a bid to regionals in Bristol, Conn.
With District 3 designated as the host team, whichever team advances in the double elimination tournament featuring LSLL, Millsboro/Georgetown, Nanticoke, Woodbridge and Laurel will receive an automatic bid to the Senior League World Series.
“That would be huge,” Donovan said. “In 13 years, we’ve had Laurel, Woodbridge, Seaford and Millsboro. You would think it would be Lower Sussex’s turn.”
“We’ve got a very strong team,” added Layton. “Hopefully, we get a Lower Sussex team in there for the first time.”
While the Senior League team goes for home field advantage, Donovan and his team will be trying to arrange that home field before the series gets under way on Sunday, July 31.
Local churches have pledged volunteers during the week, but volunteers to run the concession stand are still needed for weekend games, including opening day.
The event has also yet to lock down vans for transportation and sheds for storing equipment, after two donors fell through this year.
ESPN is set to arrive late on Wednesday, Aug. 3, or early Thursday, Aug. 4, to start setting up lights and camera equipment to broadcast the semi-finals and finals.
All games of the semi-finals will be aired on ESPN, and the series has added another day this year, spanning from Sunday, July 31, through Sunday, Aug. 7.
Even with everything new slated this year, Donovan said that he is still expecting the same great showing, thanks to a talented and dedicated committee and the support from the community.
“The big goal is to put on a good tournament but also to provide some good entertainment for the locals to come out and watch and have a good time,” he said. “We’ve had people coming out for 13 years. If the community hadn’t been involved, this wouldn’t be our 14th year.”
The Little League World Series’ opening ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 31, at the Pyle Center in Roxana. For more information, check out www.seniorsoftballws.org and www.bigleaguesoftballws.org.