The 12-and-under Webb City Little League baseball team is no stranger to state titles.
Webb City is participating in its fifth straight Little League Midwest Regional tournament, with action beginning today in Westfield, Indiana.
“Personally, as their coach, it is just a joy to be around these kids and have a positive impact on their lives,” Webb City manager Brandon Eggleston said. “To see how much they have improved since we started this thing really means a lot to me. For the kids, they understand all of the hard work the teams before them put in to reach this point. They really take a lot of pride in continuing that tradition of excellence. They have the mindset of wanting to keep playing.”
Webb City faced adversity for the first time all season in the state title game on July 22 at Sunny Jim Park. After giving up five runs in the first inning to Daniel Boone American Little League from Columbia, Webb City responded with eight unanswered tallies on the way to a come-from-behind win.
That type of victory can pay off at the regional tournament, according to Eggleston.
“What I liked the most about that (state title performance) is we are going to fall behind in games at this regional tournament,” Eggleston said. “Having that experience of playing horrible in the first inning of the state title game, and then coming back to win, was great. It showed us that if we have the right mindset, we can battle back from any deficit one run at a time. Climbing back from that position will play a huge role in the kids’ confidence moving forward.”
Webb City matches up with Johnston, Iowa, in the first round at 3 p.m. CDT and can be viewed on the ESPN+ app.
“Johnston, Iowa, is a good team,” Eggleston said. “We just have to play (our brand of) baseball no matter what opponent is lined up against us. … We have worked our tails off to be prepared for this, but we just need to go out there and have fun. I think it will be a good matchup for us.”
PITTSBURG MAKES RETURN TRIP
The Four-State Area has more than one rooting interest at the Little League Midwest Regional tournament, as the J.L. Hutchinson 12-and-under Little League team from Pittsburg is making the return trip.
“The way the J.L. Hutchinson League in Pittsburg is set up, the kids on this team had a chance to play against the kids on last year’s team that went to the regional tournament,” J.L. Hutchinson manager Eric Miller said. “I think this team really looks up to that team that went to regionals last year. They take a sense of accomplishment out of reaching the same level as last year’s team. These kids are extremely excited and are having a lot of fun.”
Last season, Pittsburg participated in the Kansas Little League state tournament for the first time ever, advancing to the regional tournament in the process. After defeating Baxter Springs 7-6 and 10-0 in a three-game series that concluded on July 11, Pittsburg is back in the regional tournament for a chance to advance to the Little League World Series.
“Hopefully, we are the second team in a long line of teams from Pittsburg that makes this regional tournament,” Miller said. “The community support in Southeast Kansas has been great. The kids have been out in the community and hearing praise from all over. If you are 12 years old, that means the world to you.”
Pittsburg has an opening matchup with Fargo, North Dakota, at 6 tonight, also on the ESPN+ app.
“The teams that are here don’t look that much different from us,” Miller said. “We just have to go out there and play our game, and not be nervous. The team that wins this will play the loosest. … We told the kids that if they go out and play hard, and fundamentally sound, the winning will take care of itself.”
Of course, there is a chance that both Webb City and Pittsburg face each other as soon as the second round. If both teams win today, Webb City and J.L. Hutchinson play each other at 6 p.m. Sunday, and if they both lose in the opening round, they square off at 3 p.m. Monday.
“I think it speaks to the talent and the quality of baseball in our Four-State area,” Eggleston said. “It is cool to see the team from Pittsburg there because they are just like us. It would be a pretty big deal for baseball in our area (if we had the chance to play each other).”
“We faced that Webb City team in travel ball earlier in the summer, and they are a fine baseball team,” Miller said. “If we have the opportunity to play them Sunday evening in the winners' bracket, we would really look forward to it. It would be awesome to have the opportunity to drive eight hours for a regional tournament and getting a chance to play a team that lives 30 minutes from you. I expect that would a really neat game to play. … If that game happens, I suspect a lot of baseball fans from Southeast Kansas and Southwest Missouri will be new subscribers to the ESPN+ app.”
Little League Midwest Regional
At Westfield, Ind.
Game 1 — Coon Rapids, Minn., vs. Kearney, Neb., noon
Game 2 — Webb City vs. Johnston, Iowa, 3 p.m.
Game 3 — Pittsburg vs. Fargo, N.D., 6 p.m.
Game 4 — Rapid City, S.D., vs. Game 1 winner, 3 p.m.
Game 5 — Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 6 — Game 2 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 3 p.m.