WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (WPRI) — The weather is not cooperating with the Little League World Series festivities in Williamsport, but Rhode Island’s own Cranston Western team is ready to play.
Thursday’s opening ceremonies were cancelled and the first day of games was pushed to Friday due to inclement weather, including Rhode Island’s first game against South Carolina. Though rain got in the way of Thursday’s events, it didn’t dampen the team’s enthusiasm.
“The experience is great and the competition is outstanding,” said one player. The 12-and 13-year-olds haven’t been home since they won the regional tournament in Bristol, Conn., but they’re excited to take their talents to the world’s stage tomorrow.
They’re ready “just to have the experience and learn all about Williamsport and play in the games and practices,” said another player. They’ll play teams from around the world, and hope to learn from them and the way they play. Thursday, they practiced next to the team from Australia.
Head Coach Gary Bucci isn’t worried about the players adjusting to the challenges of playing under such pressure.
“They get here, even though the stage is monumental, the television cameras and all of the cameras haven’t seemed to bother them at this point, so that was good,” he said. “They’re a resilient group, for sure.”
The team did get a chance to practice in the batting cages despite the rain, and was able to try out the new equipment they received when they arrived in Williamsport. They’ll be on a strict schedule before they take the field, Bucci said.
“It’s just an overall effort by everybody, and they really embrace the whole situation,” said Assistant Coach Larry Lepore.
Both coaches praised the way the players have stepped up to the plate this week, and how strong they’ve become as a team.
“They’re a very resilient and strong mental group,” Bucci said. “Especially three or four of them, we’ve got some leaders that have done a nice job, and I hope it continues.”
The players agree. “We’ve been practically living with each other for like the past three weeks,” said one member of the team. “You build that bond and it’s all been great. It’s how we get through these tournaments.”
This is the second year in a row that a team from Rhode Island is representing New England in the tournament. They’ll play their first game Friday at 5 p.m., which will be aired on ESPN.