West Side Little League coach Ken Coomer has seen it all at the state tournament.
He has also watched teams dominate the state and then have the bizarre happen in the regional tournament, one step shy of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
“We’ve had a couple of heartbreakers,” Coomer said. “Anything can happen, they are 12-year-old boys. Sometimes you get a break and sometimes they go against you. That’s Little League baseball.”
West Side is in the unusual position of not heading to the state tournament as the defending champ. That honor goes to host New Albany. West Side opens Saturday at 10 a.m. against Maumee at Bevelhymer Park.
“We do have a couple players who are returning players, but we always go in with a chip on our shoulder,” Coomer said. “We have represented the state at the regional for a long time.
»PHOTOS: West Side wins district championship
“Our kids know what it’s all about. The scoreboard on our home field has all the years we have won state and gone to Williampsort. They have seen it and they talk about it. Our job is to make sure they are prepared for it.”
West Side hasn’t played in two weeks after winning the district tournament with a 17-0 3-inning win over Anderson in the final.
That is a long time of practicing without seeing someone in the opposing dugout.
“We like to play,” Coomer said. “It’s been almost two weeks so we have had to find ways to keep their interest and keep them involved, but they are always anxious to play.
“We have to mix it up. We have to make it interesting because it’s hard.”
Especially considering West Side won via run rule in each district game, something Coomer knows won’t be the case at the state tournament.
“I know it is hard to tell by looking at the scores, but our district is getting a lot tougher, a lot more competitive,” Coomer said. “We have teams in our district who have worked hard over the years to get better.”
Coomer looks for host New Albany and Boardman to once again be the teams to watch at the state.
“New Albany has come a long way and Boardman always has success so we can’t take anything for granted,” Coomer said. “I am curious how the age change will reflect in things.”
That is just one of the big question marks for West Side going in. A rule change moved the birthday cutoff from Sept. 1 to May 1, meaning there are no more 13-year-olds playing at this level.
Maumee will be a blank slate for West Side in the opener.
“You’ve just got to show up,” Coomer said. “That first game, nobody knows nobody. Everyone is going in unknown. It is our job to keep them relaxed because sometimes it is better off going into the unknown.”
The winner of Saturday’s game plays Tallmadge at 10 a.m. Sunday.
The state champion advances to the Great Lakes Regional Aug. 4-10 in Westfield, Ind.
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