The Little League World Series: Where Pure Emotion Always Shines Through

The Little League World Series: Where Pure Emotion Always Shines Through


What makes your average 12-to-13-year-old smile and giggle like this?

Middle school crush texts you back? Parents finally let you get a puppy? Won the pocket-lotto and found a $20 bill in your jeans?

What if I told you he just gave up one of the longest home runs in Little League World Series history in front of 32,000-plus fans and a national TV audience?

At 5-foot-1 and 85 pounds – presumably soaking wet – Mehki Garrard stood on sports’ loneliest island Friday and watched Cole Wagner deposit his 22nd pitch deep into the South Williamsport night.

Wagner turned around the 75 mph offering – in terms of reaction time, that’s the equivalent of a 98 mph fastball on major league dimensions – during the Mid-Atlantic's 18-0 drubbing of Garrard’s Midwest squad, smacking the smile right onto the opposing pitcher’s face.

This is Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The base paths may be smaller, but the emotions loom larger than life. Halfway to getting knocked out of the Little League World Series, likely the early highlight of these players' young lives, Garrard watched in awe as Wagner launched a Roy Hobbs-esque moon shot that looked destined for a fantastic collision with stadium lights. He entered the at-bat a triple shy of the cycle, including another homer earlier that inning.

Leading up to the pitch, announcer Karl Ravech rattled off Wagner’s night. “Single, double, home run, two RBIs,” he began – Wagner, by the way, rounded the bases on his double after an error in right-center – before the color commentator chimed in, “I think he hits it too hard to hit a triple.”

“[He could] pull one down the line,” Ravech thought out loud during Garrard’s delivery. Upon contact – to dead center field nonetheless, I’d like to think Wagner did it to spite Ravech in the booth suggesting to poke one down the line for the cycle – both announcers yelled in unison; half in disbelief, half in pure excitement, half because, well, it’s their job. Yes, that’s too many halves; you haven’t heard baseball is 90 percent mental, but the other half is physical? We’ve got some leeway here.

Somewhere off in the distance, Kevin Costner whispered a faint “anything travels that far oughta have a damn stewardess on it, don’t you think?”

Catcher Eli Goddard, the man with the front row seat – in the most literal sense of the term – couldn’t hold in his admiration. He didn’t tip off Wagner to the pitch being thrown like Costner’s “Crash” Davis, but let’s face it, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

With grace and composure beyond his years, he slowly strode down the third base line, all the while being passed by the 15th, 16th and 17th Pennsylvania runs of the night. Perfectly on cue with the color commentator remarking that he’d like to personally go down and congratulate Wagner, the catcher greeted the 18th and final run of the night with a firm high five like he would an old friend.

Upon further review a middle infielder, likely shortstop Treghan Parker, congratulated Wagner halfway through his well-deserved cruise around the bases. I wouldn’t be surprised if Missouri first baseman Cale McCallister used every ounce of power in his 5-foot-6, 120-pound frame to box out the first base coach to congratulate the slugger first. Not so unfortunately, the camera was focused on a spot in the distance, nearly beyond the reach of the stadium lights. If not for a camera tower planted in the middle of the landing atop Lamade Stadium’s famous hill, the ball may still be going.

As sincere a gesture as a high-five is, there is no gesture as genuine as heartfelt emotion.

There’s an invisible battle that wages in the sixty feet and six inches – forty-six feet in this case – between the batter and pitcher. It is primal in nature. Here’s a club, that guy is going to try to get that ball by you. Don’t let him.

Very few sports are made up of true one-on-one matchups. In basketball there’s help defense, in football over-the-top coverage, and in hockey defenders will put life, limb and teeth in front of a speeding puck no matter the costs. Likely a close second to getting dunked on, having a hitter turn your best fastball into a fan’s souvenir a few hundred feet away is about as bad as it gets in sports.

That embarrassment never seemed to cross Garrard’s mind. Instead he gazed into the distance, open-mouthed, laughing in pure admiration and respect for what he just witnessed. When his third baseman met him on the mound, Garrard laughingly pointed to deep center in the direction of the crater Wagner’s bomb undoubtedly left behind.

Both announcers let out matching high-pitched “woooos,” imitating the young pitcher’s reaction. It left them giddy, as it did millions of fans around the world who regardless of race, beliefs or background all share a common appreciation for baseball and its most spectacular moments – be it performed by a professional athlete or a pre-teen.

Next time you’re watching professional baseball, keep an eye out for every over-the-leg-bat-snap and pray for the unsuspecting water coolers upon which disgruntled pitchers will aggressively take out their anger. For every time that happens there are hundreds of young batters running, not sulking, back to the dugout after striking out and pitchers awe-struck to the point of disbelief after a home run they personally allowed. The Little League World Series, once again, proves a shining example of the unfiltered emotion that fuels sports and competition even in its youngest of competitors.

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Who Will Fill the Shoes Of USC's Most Productive Offensive Players From Last Season?

An inside look into who will step up and produce for the Trojans in 2018.

As spring football gets underway, the Trojans will look to replace their 3 most important players on their offense from last season.

The first is Sam Darnold, a projected top pick in this year’s NFL draft and the quarterback who helped usher USC back into prominence by delivering a Rose Bowl victory as well as a Cotton Bowl Berth. The next is Ronald Jones II, the workhorse running back for the Trojans who rushed for 1500 yards and 19 touchdowns this year and finished 4th on the all-time USC rushing list.

The third main piece of the Trojans’ offense that USC will have to replace is Deontay Burnett, who before the emergence of Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman, served as Darnold’s most reliable target and finished with over 1000 yards receiving and 9 touchdowns.


Whoever has to fill in Sam Darnold’s enormous shoes will have their work cut out for them next season. Currently, the two most likely players to replace the former heisman candidate are Matt Fink and Jack Sears. Fink, the more experienced of the two, served as the primary backup last season while Sears elected to take a redshirt year.

USC will also welcome in quarterback J.T. Daniels, the former Mater-Dei quarterback who led the Monarchs to an undefeated season and was regarded as the best quarterback in the 2019 class before reclassifying into the 2018 class. In his final season at Mater Dei, Daniels put up video-game like numbers.

According to 24/7 sports, he scored 62 total touchdowns while only throwing 4 interceptions. While Fink and Sears both will have the upper-hand on Daniels come the fall, it's difficult to imagine that they have anywhere near the ceiling that Daniels has. I expect Daniels to come in and win the job, ushering USC into a new era post-Darnold.

Prediction: J.T. Daniels

Running Back

While finding a replacement for Darnold should be the biggest priority for USC, running back will be a close second. During his three year tenure with the team, Ronald Jones, affectionately called RoJo by many Trojan fans, cemented himself as one of the USC greats, finishing 4th on the all-time USC rushing list. Thankfully for the Trojans, there looks to be a solid replacement in place.

Former five-star running back Stephen Carr came on strong during his freshman campaign and while he only had 363 total yards and 3 touchdowns, his performances in the season opener vs. Western Michigan and Stanford in September should solidify his role as a workhorse for the Trojans in 2017-2018.

If Carr can’t stay healthy, USC still has a plethora of options with veteran Aca’Cedric Ware and Vavae Malepeai who both played well in stretches last season.

Prediction: Stephen Carr

Wide Receiver

On the outside, Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman both look like the future for the Trojans. Described by many as “big men with little men skills”, they should be huge contributors for USC next season regardless of who is throwing to them. However, USC still has to replace Deontay Burnett, who despite his lack of size, had over 1000 yards receiving and 9 touchdowns last year.

While Trevon Sidney, Velus Jones Jr., and Josh Imatorbhebhe are all viable candidates to fill in for Burnett, none have the ceiling of Amon-Ra St. Brown, an incoming freshman and arguably the best receiver in the 2018 class. His combination of route-running and playmaking should impress coaches and will be a perfect complement to the skills of Vaughns and Pittman.

Prediction: Amon-Ra St.Brown

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

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6 Ways To Craft The "Perfect" March Madness Bracket

It's that time of year again

My family could be described as rather competitive… to put it nicely. Everything can be made a competition between us from who has the most hockey state championships, to playing board games, to who gets shotgun, and even to who mom’s favorite is (a dispute she refuses to settle). Competitiveness just comes with being a Purcell, but some things bring it out of us more than others. March Madness being one of them.

Everyone is always trying to be the one who has the perfect bracket… or in our case, it’s more often the least flawed bracket. Either way, as the years have gone through, I have used multiple strategies in an attempt to construct the winning bracket. I have yet to win, so I don’t know if I’d take my advice, but if you get stuck here are some ideas you can try.

1. Mascots

Some schools just have that one mascot that makes you stop and think, “Wow that is so cool” or “Aw that’s kind of cute” and you might as well give the creative mascot the benefit of the doubt.

2. Location

One year I picked the warmer climate, but I guess you could go for the colder climate if you really wanted to.

3. Where Your Friends Go

As a freshman in college, this was my go-to strategy this year and I have a good feeling about it. Just had to make sure the high school friends know I still support them.

4. School Colors

Look good, feel good, right? So, the best colors

have a high chance of producing positive results.

5. Higher Seed

As someone who is really not a numbers person, it pains me to admit that sometimes you just have to go with the number.

6. V-for Villanova, V-for Victory

I swear I’m not biased, but it just always makes sense to have Villanova winning the whole thing.

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