BANGOR, Maine — A new look for the Senior League World Series took on a more concrete appearance at Mansfield Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
And players and fans from tournament host Maine District 3 couldn’t be happier after a blind draw placed the 10 participating teams into two five-team brackets for the new modified double-elimination format.
The first two teams selected, the U.S. Southeast and Maine District 3, earned first-round byes for this year’s event that runs Aug. 2-8.
Bangor Senior Leaguers Jesse Colford and Nick Cowperthwaite, both back from the 2014 Maine team that went undefeated through pool play to reach the Senior League World Series semifinals, took turns drawing baseballs representing the regions competing in the event, with Cowperthwaite selecting Maine District 3 after Colford selected the U.S. Southeast ball from the bin.
“I think it’s going to be pretty neat having that first-round bye,” said Cowperthwaite. “I think it’s going to help us a bit, giving us that first day off.”
Not only will Maine District 3 have a bye this year, the rest of the blind draw put the local entry in what, based on tournament history, should be the significantly weaker bracket of the two for this year’s event.
Maine District 3 and U.S. Southeast become ineligible for opening-day byes for the next four World Series.
Maine District 3 plays its first game on Aug. 3 against the winner of the Aug. 2 game between Europe-Africa and Asia-Pacific. The other Bracket B first-round game matches Canada and U.S. Central.
Joining the U.S. Southeast in Bracket A will be Latin America, U.S. West, U.S. Southwest and U.S. East.
“It’s pretty one-sided,” said Cowperthwaite. “I think Bracket A’s a little tougher than Bracket B, but it should be a fun tournament.”
The Bracket A regions have won 12 of the 13 Senior League World Series tournaments held since the event was moved to Bangor in 2002, with Latin America winning five championships; the U.S. East, West and Southwest two each; and the U.S. South once in 2007.
The exception was Urbandale, Iowa, winning the 2005 championship representing U.S. Central.
“It is what it is,” Senior League World Series tournament director Mike Brooker said of the selection process. “It was a blind draw. We covered them up and didn’t do anything that wasn’t on the up and up.”
Previous Senior League World Series in Bangor had used a round-robin pool play format, in which the 10 teams were divided into two five-team pools with each team in a pool playing the others in the pool once for a total of four games each.
The top two teams in each pool advanced to the semifinals, with the top seed in one pool playing the second seed in the other pool.
Under the new, modified double-elimination format, the last two remaining teams in each bracket face off in single-elimination semifinals on Thursday of tourney week, with the two winners advancing to Saturday’s championship game.
The semifinals are scheduled for 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Aug. 6, with the championship game — to be broadcast live on ESPN2 — set for noon Aug. 8.
“This is the format that Little League is using at all of their tournaments this year,” Brooker said. “It’s what they’ve done in Williamsport [at the Little League World Series] and at their regionals in the last couple three years anyway, and it’s the tournament [format] they want followed at all the World Series.”
By shifting to a modified double-elimination format, the Senior League World Series schedule will drop from 23 games to 19 games, with teams that lose their first two games playing in consolation games.
The reduction in the number of games will open Friday of tournament week to provide the series a make-up day in case of rain.
Two other activities have been added to the Friday off-day schedule, the restoration of an all-star game that had been held early in the Senior League World Series’ Bangor history and a Major League Baseball Scouting Showcase.
The Major League Scouting Bureau will send three scouts to Mansfield Stadium to test as many as five players on each Senior League World Series team in a variety of baseball drills.
“It’s part of Little League’s new partnership with Major League Baseball,” said Brooker. It grew out of Little League’s Urban Initiative, and it’s a way to get Major League baseball more involved with Little League.
“It’s a great opportunity for kids to get their names on the radar,” he said.
Senior League World Series international qualifying tournaments begin June 26 with the Asia-Pacific regional in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The Latin America regional opens July 11 in Yauco, Puerto Rico. The Europe-Africa regional begins July 12 in Novara, Italy. The Canada regional will start July 22 in Coquitlam, British Columbia.
The United States regionals begin with the West on July 20 in Ontario, California; the East on July 23 in West Deptford, New Jersey; the Southeast on July 24 in Safety Harbor, Florida; the Southwest on July 24 in Seguin, Texas; and Central on July 25 in Peru and Oglesby, Illinois.
The Maine District 3 tournament gets underway July 10 at Mansfield Stadium.