West Side’s dynasty, started more than 30 years ago, continues in 5th World Series

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West Side press conference at Little League World Series: Aug. 26, 2021

The Hamilton West Side Little League All-Stars are 2 wins away from winning the Little League World Series.

Typically youth sports programs are successful for short periods of time. They win for a few years, then the players move on.

But the long-term accomplishments West Side Little League All-Stars have achieved would have to be called a diamond dynasty.

The team, made up of Hamilton 12-year-olds, has won 19 state titles and advanced to the Little League World Series five times, including this season. The team opened the double-elimination, 16-team World Series at 3 p.m. on Aug. 19 against Tennessee in South Williamsport, Pa.

ExploreMayor: West Side Little League makes ‘us all so proud’ after advancing to 5th World Series

A longshot at the start of the Little League World Series to win the 16-team baseball tournament, the 12-year-old Hamilton all-stars are now two victories away from doing just that. No Ohio team has ever won the series.

West Side, a non-profit youth baseball league, held its first opening day on May 24, 1952.

Since then, the program has won state titles in five decades from the 1980s to the 2020s and advanced to the World Series in 1991, 1993, 2007, 2010 and 2021.

This year’s team is coached by Ken Coomer and it’s the first time in recent memory a member of the Nichting family has not been a part of the LLWS team.

Ray Nichting, 88, was there early on and managed the West Side World Series teams in 1991 and 1993. His son, Tim, 61, started coaching with his father in 1983 and never left the program. This year, Tim coached his grandson, a member of the 11-year-old All-Stars that won state.

Tim Nichting called the stability of coaching in the program “crazy,” but they have been blessed with a pipeline of talent.

“The bottom line, you have to have ballplayers,” said Nichting, who coached his son, T.J., in the 2007 LLWS.

And Hamilton’s bottled water doesn’t hurt, he said. Hamilton brags about having the best-tasting water. He thinks there may be more than water in those blue bottles.

“Baseballism,” he said.

Hamilton West Side clears the bench to celebrate Jake Jones' second home run in the fourth-inning of Saturday's game against Toms River, N.J., at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, PA.
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Hamilton West Side clears the bench to celebrate Jake Jones' second home run in the fourth-inning of Saturday's game against Toms River, N.J., at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, PA.

Credit: Staff photo by Nick Daggy

Credit: Staff photo by Nick Daggy

Ali Saylor, whose son Gavin plays outfield, third base and pitches, credits the coaches for the team’s success.

“They really know how to mentality prepare these kids,” she said. “Sure, they know baseball. But it’s more than that.”

Josh Davidson, in his third season as president of the Hamilton Little League, agreed.

“They all build the same expectations,” said Davidson, whose son, Noah, is a catcher and pitcher on the team.

Davidson said the West Side’s success helps stop a trend in youth baseball: The best players leaving local programs to play on travel teams.

“Our level of success and high-quality coaching encourages people to not leave,” he said.

Hamilton West Side’s Katelyn Polido rounds first base as Adam Ayrault of Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores (Mich.) looks for the ball during Hamilton’s 11-3 loss in the 2017 Little League Great Lakes Regional at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Hamilton West Side’s Katelyn Polido rounds first base as Adam Ayrault of Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores (Mich.) looks for the ball during Hamilton’s 11-3 loss in the 2017 Little League Great Lakes Regional at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

HOW TO WATCH

WHAT: Little League World Series

WHERE: South Williamsport, Pa.

FIRST ROUND GAME: Hamilton, Ohio vs. Tennessee, 3 p.m. today, ESPN

SECOND ROUND GAME: If Hamilton wins, plays winner of New Hampshire vs. California at 9 a.m. Sunday, ESPN. If Hamilton loses, plays loser of New Hampshire vs California, 1 p.m. Saturday, ESPN