California will field a team in the Senior League World Series for the first time since 2004 when play begins in the 10-team, double-elimination tournament at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor on Sunday.
The Niles-Centerville Little League of Fremont edged Corona 2-1 in an all-California U.S. West championship game on Tuesday evening at Ontario, Calif.
The result ends a four-year run by Hawaiian teams as that region’s champion. Hilo, Hawaii, advanced to this year’s semifinals before being ousted by Corona, the Southern California representative, 15-10.
Fremont, the Northern California qualifier, went 6-0, in the regional, defeating Laurel, Mont. (15-3), Sitka, Alaska (7-0), Portland, Ore. (13-1), and Hilo, Hawaii (11-10) in pool play before topping host Chino Hills, Calif., 14-5 in the semifinals.
Corona had advanced by topping Scottsdale, Ariz. (10-1), Vancouver, Wash. (20-5), Post Falls, Idaho (11-3), and Chino Hills, Calif. (9-6) in its pool before defeating Hilo, Hawaii in its semifinal.
The U.S. West champion from California District 14 will open Pool A play at the Senior League World Series at 2:30 p.m. Sunday against Asia-Pacific champion Makati City, Philippines.
The West has been one of the strongest regions in the SLWS in the seven years since the tournament’s move to Bangor in 2002, compiling a 23-5 record in pool play and a 28-10 record overall, highlighted by the 2003 world championship won by Hilo, Hawaii.
The West reached the championship game for four consecutive years between 2003 and 2006, and last year’s Hilo, Hawaii, team was the first representative from the region not to advance to the semifinals in the last seven years after finishing 2-2 in pool play.
Fremont, Calif., and Makati City, Philippines, are joined by Greenville, S.C. (U.S. Southeast), San Nicolas, Aruba (Latin America), Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy, and host Bangor (Maine District 3) as teams that already have qualified for the 49th annual SLWS, the world championship baseball tournament for 14-through 16-year-olds.
The U.S. Southwest representative was to be determined at Seguin, Texas, on Wednesday evening when Texas East champion West University Little League of Houston faced Texas West champ Del Mar Little League of Laredo.
Texas East, 2-0 in regional play, needed just one victory over 2-1 Texas West in the championship round, while Texas West needed two victories over Texas East.
Texas East defeated Texas West 6-1 on Monday in an earlier round of the seven-team, double-elimination tournament.
Also scheduled Wednesday were the semifinals and final of the U.S. Central tournament at Columbia, Mo.
Afternoon semifinals matched South Bend, Ind., against Midland, Mich., and Madison, Wisc., against Lakeville, Ohio, with the winners to play for an SLWS berth in the evening.
The U.S. East and Canadian champions are scheduled to be crowned Thursday.
Arrival times vary
One pre-tournament challenge for Senior League World Series organizers is arranging for the teams to make their way to Bangor via bus after landing at various airports in the region.
Five teams are slated to arrive at the Portland International Jetport, two at Logan International Airport in Boston, and one at Bangor International Airport, according to tournament director Mike Brooker.
One other team, the Canadian champion, has the least complicated trip, a 200-mile bus ride directly from that regional tournament site in St. John, New Brunswick, to Bangor. The winning team is expected to leave at 11 a.m. Friday, with a late afternoon arrival in the Queen City.
The Latin American champions from San Nicolas, Aruba, will be the first team to arrive, landing in Boston at 4 p.m. Thursday and then busing up to Bangor.
Friday is the busiest day for tournament organizers, with six teams arriving from around the world.
The U.S. Central champs arrive in Portland at 1 p.m. and should be in Bangor by late afternoon, with the East and Southeast champions from Greenville, S.C., expected to land at the Portland International Jetport a half-hour later.
The Southwest champions are scheduled for a 5:23 p.m. landing in Portland, which should mean an early evening arrival.
The Asia-Pacific representatives from Makati City, Philippines, is set to arrive at BIA at 11:15 p.m. Friday, while the U.S. West champion from Fremont, Calif., will arrive in Portland at 11:20 p.m. and is expected to reach Bangor by 2 a.m. Saturday.
The final team to reach Bangor will be the Europe-Middle East-Asia team from Italy, which is scheduled to arrive in Boston at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The team then must clear Customs before leaving for Bangor, and Brooker is hopeful the team will arrive before the start of SLWS opening ceremonies at 8 p.m.