Hamilton’s West Side All-Stars ready for Great Lakes tournament

The West Side Little League practices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at their home field in Hamilton. They depart on Thursday afternoon for Whitestown, Ind. for the Great Lakes Region tournament set to take place between Saturday, Aug. 6, and Wednesday, Aug. 10. WSLL will play its first game at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, against the winner of the Illinois/Kentucky matchup. The game will air on ESPN+. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
The West Side Little League practices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at their home field in Hamilton. They depart on Thursday afternoon for Whitestown, Ind. for the Great Lakes Region tournament set to take place between Saturday, Aug. 6, and Wednesday, Aug. 10. WSLL will play its first game at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, against the winner of the Illinois/Kentucky matchup. The game will air on ESPN+. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

The 2022 West Side Little League All-Stars have a lot to live up to as they play in the upcoming Great Lakes Region Tournament in Whitestown, Ind. starting this weekend.

The 2021 team made it to the title game, losing 5-2 to the champions from Michigan’s Taylor North. That was the best finish for an Ohio ever in the Little League World Series.

But this year’s team, who does have one player from that 2021 team, is hungry for a title. They already won the state tournament, winning the title game 10-0 against Galion, who beat them 5-1 earlier in the state tournament.

Combined ShapeCaption
The West Side Little League practices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at their home field in Hamilton. They depart on Thursday afternoon for Whitestown, Ind. for the Great Lakes Region tournament set to take place between Saturday, Aug. 6, and Wednesday, Aug. 10. WSLL will play its first game at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, against the winner of the Illinois/Kentucky matchup. The game will air on ESPN+. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

The West Side Little League practices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at their home field in Hamilton. They depart on Thursday afternoon for Whitestown, Ind. for the Great Lakes Region tournament set to take place between Saturday, Aug. 6, and Wednesday, Aug. 10. WSLL will play its first game at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, against the winner of the Illinois/Kentucky matchup. The game will air on ESPN+. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Combined ShapeCaption
The West Side Little League practices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at their home field in Hamilton. They depart on Thursday afternoon for Whitestown, Ind. for the Great Lakes Region tournament set to take place between Saturday, Aug. 6, and Wednesday, Aug. 10. WSLL will play its first game at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, against the winner of the Illinois/Kentucky matchup. The game will air on ESPN+. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

“The loss made us even hungrier, coming back,” said shortstop and pitcher Blake Sams. “Running the two teams, made us feel good.”

Following their lone state tournament loss, they came back the next day to beat New Albany in a 13-1 run-rule route.

“I think that kinda pumped us up,” said third baseman and pitcher Maddox Jones, who was on the 2021 Tom Seaver Championship team. “We saw that there was a team that could compete with us, and we went and practiced, we practiced hard the last two practices. I think that’s why we played well.”

On Wednesday, the West Side All-Stars had one final tune-up practice before they head out to Great Lakes Regional Tournament just northwest of Indianapolis.

West Side Little League head coach Tim Nichting said while grit best described last year’s team, the best word for this year’s team is unity.

“All the kids just hang out together,” he said. “If we weren’t here at baseball, they’d all still be hanging out together. Very close, tight-knit group of kids, and parents.”

Combined ShapeCaption
The West Side Little League practices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at their home field in Hamilton. They depart on Thursday afternoon for Whitestown, Ind. for the Great Lakes Region tournament set to take place between Saturday, Aug. 6, and Wednesday, Aug. 10. WSLL will play its first game at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, against the winner of the Illinois/Kentucky matchup. The game will air on ESPN+. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

The West Side Little League practices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at their home field in Hamilton. They depart on Thursday afternoon for Whitestown, Ind. for the Great Lakes Region tournament set to take place between Saturday, Aug. 6, and Wednesday, Aug. 10. WSLL will play its first game at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, against the winner of the Illinois/Kentucky matchup. The game will air on ESPN+. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Combined ShapeCaption
The West Side Little League practices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at their home field in Hamilton. They depart on Thursday afternoon for Whitestown, Ind. for the Great Lakes Region tournament set to take place between Saturday, Aug. 6, and Wednesday, Aug. 10. WSLL will play its first game at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, against the winner of the Illinois/Kentucky matchup. The game will air on ESPN+. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Nichting said his expectations for this team are to compete.

“I feel this team’s good enough to be right in the middle of everything, and hopefully, we get a little luck here and a little luck there, and we’ll be right where we want to be,” he said.

While his advice to his team is to be “very confident” in their abilities, this West Side Little League team is not short on determination.

“I think we all feel good because we’ve been waiting for this our whole lives, and we’ve been practicing the hardest that we can to just make it to regionals and try to make it to Williamsport,” said catcher Sammy Platt.

Hamilton’s West Side Little League has been a dominant force in the Little League program for decades: 37 consecutive district championships and have had 20 state titles since 1988. They’ve made it to Williamsport five times since 1991, including being the 2021 Little League World Series runners-up.

Being able to play for a historic organization is “really cool,” Jones said.

“Hamilton is a really good baseball town, and we represented Ohio in 11 out of the last 13 state titles, and I think we represented them well,” he said.

Combined ShapeCaption
The West Side Little League practices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at their home field in Hamilton. They depart on Thursday afternoon for Whitestown, Ind. for the Great Lakes Region tournament set to take place between Saturday, Aug. 6, and Wednesday, Aug. 10. WSLL will play its first game at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, against the winner of the Illinois/Kentucky matchup. The game will air on ESPN+. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

The West Side Little League practices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at their home field in Hamilton. They depart on Thursday afternoon for Whitestown, Ind. for the Great Lakes Region tournament set to take place between Saturday, Aug. 6, and Wednesday, Aug. 10. WSLL will play its first game at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, against the winner of the Illinois/Kentucky matchup. The game will air on ESPN+. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Combined ShapeCaption
The West Side Little League practices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at their home field in Hamilton. They depart on Thursday afternoon for Whitestown, Ind. for the Great Lakes Region tournament set to take place between Saturday, Aug. 6, and Wednesday, Aug. 10. WSLL will play its first game at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, against the winner of the Illinois/Kentucky matchup. The game will air on ESPN+. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

And none of that puts pressure on the team, at least not a lot for Platt.

“It doesn’t put a lot of pressure on me,” he said. “You just got to feel good about it.”

One of the keys to winning the Great Lakes Region Tournament and the Little League World Series will come down to pitching. Nichting and the players know that’s one of their strengths. Their other strength is hitting.

“When you have four or five good pitchers, it’s better than having two or three,” said Jones. “At Williamsport, we played seven games, and with only two or three pitchers, you can’t go that far.”

West Side Little League has a first-round bye and will play the winner of Saturday’s Illinois-Kentucky matchup. Their game will be 4 p.m. on Sunday, and Nichting said they’ll focus on the teams’ hitting and defense, and “hopefully, they’re (both) burning their No. 1 pitchers that day.”

The team leaves this afternoon to head to Whitestown, Ind.

ajc.com

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