West Side used the extra practice time the best it could, but Nichting said it would have been helpful to be seeing actual game pitches during that time. To simulate that, some of the pitchers from last year’s World Series runner-up team came to help out, throwing batting practice and playing scrimmages.
During practices, the coaches have especially worked with the pitchers to make sure they are hitting corners, mixing up pitches and locating the curve ball. The hitters will be better at this stage and pitching can make a big difference, especially if the umpires are calling a wider strike zone.
“We like to practice, that’s not a problem with my team, but it’s a shame there is no one for us to play to keep the kids seeing live pitches and to give our pitchers different batters to face,” Nichting said.
Hamilton has only lost one game this postseason, but Nichting is hoping the team can regain the momentum built in response to that defeat over the last two wins at state.
Only the region champion gets to advance to the World Series and it’s a one-game final so the pressure is even greater than last year when both finalists got to move on because of COVID restrictions preventing internationals teams from competing.
“The team really responded well to the next two games after we lost at state, so I’m hoping we can keep that same mentality, that same ‘we can’t lose again’ mentality. We went out and played two good teams and played pretty good. We talked a little about that loss and how we performed after that, and that’s the point we go to regionals with that same attitude.”
Nichting also thinks the team chemistry with such a “close-knitted group” can make a difference on a big stage like the region tournament.
Even with the downtime, Nichting said the players seem focused and he doesn’t expect any nerves to show once they hit the field Sunday.
Before last year, West Side hadn’t been to the World Series since 2010. Hamilton also had been represented in 1991, 1993 and 2007.
“We are focused on winning this tournament,” Nichting said. “I want to go in with a lot of confidence. Going to a different place, the kids are only 12 years old, so they are focused on the task at hand. I’ve been to the World Series four times. My assistant Kenny (Coomer) went last year, that’s kid heaven to make it to the Little League Word Series, even for an old man like me.”
“We’ve worked hard, the kids have worked hard, so we will just let the cards fall as they may. But I think we’re going to do well.”