Maine-Endwell, New York clinched the U.S. title in the Little League Series to advance to Sunday’s final.
“I don’t think I can describe it, maybe the boys can,” New York manager Scott Rush told the Associated Press. “Just an unbelievable feeling.”
New York will face the International champion South Korea on Sunday. The two teams won their championship games Saturday and are set to play Sunday for the Little League World Series title.
The last U.S. team to win the world championship was Huntington Beach, Calif., in 2011. Teams from Tokyo won in 2015, 2013 and 2012 while South Korea took the 2014 championship.
Maine-Endwell looks to end that streak today, here’s what you need to know about the Little League team:
1. They Are the First New York Team to Win the U.S. Title Since 1964
The team from Endwell, N.Y. clinched a 4-2 victory over Goodlettsville, Tenn. on Saturday, which marks the first title win for New York since Staten Island in 1964. Schenectady is the only other New York team to win the title, which was in 1954.
New York is undefeated and has shown their offensive power in the tournament, outscoring opponents 27-15. They now face South Korea who beat Panama 7-2 earlier Saturday in the international final.
2. Their Ace, Michael Mancini Struck Out 11 in the U.S. Final
Michael Mancini was dominant on the mound on Saturday against Goodlettsville. According to the Associated Press, he earned a standing ovation from Endwell fans at Lamade Stadium when he exited in the fifth.
The young pitcher allowed just one hit through 4 2/3 innings.
“The curveball is usually my biggest pitch because I know if I’m down in the count I can throw that and get back up and maybe get them out with that pitch,” Mancini told the AP. “So you never know what can happen with that pitch.”
His performance left opposing manager Joey Hale with praise.
“After the game I gave him a big hug and said, ‘You are something else,’” Hale told him, according to the Little League World Series website.
“He doesn’t make mistakes,” Hale said. “He’s truly polished. Kids at this age all have good breaking balls, but they don’t always throw them where they’re supposed to be thrown.
“If you watch Mancini, every ball is below the knees.”
3. Drake Sent a Video Message to the Team
Drake showed his support for New York. He sent a video message to the Maine-Endwell Little League Team, which included the pun, “I Hope It Ends Well.”
President Obama also called the team to congratulate them on their U.S. title win and wish them luck for Sunday’s final game.
4. They Lost in the Mid-Atlantic Region Final Last Year
New York fell to eventual World Series runner-up Red Land in the Mid-Atlantic Region final last year. Over half of the roster returned for this year’s team.
“From there on, I pretty much knew we were going to go a long way,” infielder Jack Hopko told the Associated Press. “Just like last year, we played well in regionals but this year we came out on top and this game today, I don’t really know how to describe it. It was a long road and we made it where we wanted to.”
The team prides itself for the camaraderie they share on and off the field, which was exemplified throughout the world series tournament. Maine-Endwell Little League was named the 2016 Jack Losch Little League Baseball World Series Team Sportsmanship Award winner. Voted on by the 16 participating teams, coaches, team hosts, and the staff within the Dr. Creighton J. Hale International Grove, the award recognizes the team that exemplifies a tremendous amount of sportsmanship. According to the Little League World Series website, they take into account the team’s behavior in the dormitories, dining hall and interview room as well as their performance on the field.
To see the full Maine-Endwell roster, click here.
5. They Come From a Small City
The team represents a city with a population of less than 12,000 on the outskirts of Binghamton.
When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred visited the Little League World Series earlier this week, he admitted that he was partial.
“Some of you may know that I’m an upstate New York kid,” he said. “So, I don’t have to be impartial today. I’m rooting for the upstate New York kids.”