A chance to go to the state tournament might not seem like that big of a deal for a Hamilton West Side Little League All-Star program that has been getting those opportunities year after year.
West Side 12-and-under all-star coach Ken Coomer said after 36 straight district championships, the next step toward Williamsport hasn’t lost any luster.
A four-time qualifier for the Little League World Series, West Side won its 36th straight District 9 championship this week, beating Lakota in the final, and now seeks its 10th state title in the last 12 years – excluding 2020 when Little League canceled the series.
West Side opens the state tournament – hosted by District 11′s Ironton National – in a matchup against District 1 champion Jefferson at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“Just having a chance to go Williamsport is a big deal, and this is the next step on that journey,” Coomer said. “The kids go back and watch YouTube videos of the times we’ve been to Williamsport and they are all very aware of what’s at stake. It’s exciting for them.”
Coomer, a long-time coach for West Side’s Little League all-stars, was in the dugout the last time the organization made it to Williamsport in 2010 and he was there in 2019 when West Side won the state tournament before falling in the Great Lakes Regional tournament.
The winner of this year’s state tournament opens regional play Aug. 8 against the winner from Kentucky on ESPN+.
“Hamilton has a lot of good tradition at the Little League level with winning state titles,” Coomer said. “The kids know that, and it helps with their confidence knowing the organization has been there lots of times.”
This year’s group might appreciate the opportunity a bit more than most after the realization the 12-year-olds last year didn’t get a chance before aging out of the Little League level. This group also didn’t make it out of districts as 10-year-olds in 2019.
Coomer doesn’t believe the players lost anything developmentally by not having the tournament last year, as the all-stars still played in other tournaments and had a semblance of a season. But it still wasn’t quite the same experience.
“I think appreciation is a good word,” Coomer said. “It’s a shame the kids last year at 12 didn’t get to experience it. These kids saw that not getting to play and to be able to experience it now for this group, it’s much appreciated.”
This year’s team is another strong one, Coomer said. West Side is considered deep in pitching and solid on defense, and it’s a scrappy team that finds ways to score runs.
All that amounted to West Side outscoring its four district opponents 64-0. The organization has won every district title at the Little League 12-and-under division since 1985.
“It’s really kind of crazy when you think about it,” Coomer said. “All those coaches and players that came through and have been a part of that. It’s still special.”
As for the competition at state, Coomer doesn’t know what to expect this year since there was no tournament last season and the 10s didn’t make it this far in 2019. He’s confident in his own team, which has 14 players: Brady Baumann, Chance Retherford, Cooper Clay, Cooper Oden, Gage Maggard, Gavin Saylor, JJ Vogel, Kaleb Harden, Krew Brown, Levi Smith, Maddox Jones, Noah Davidson, Tyler Donges and Chase Moak.
“They work hard, have a great attitude, and that’s a great combination,” Coomer said. “We are strong team-wise, how they come together as a team and pick each other up. They do a great job of that. We’re just excited. We look forward to it and hope to come home with a state title.”
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