For the first time in sixty-two years, Michigan will bring home the LLWS

It was 2008 when the Red Wings got to kiss the Stanley Cup while skating across the ice. 2004, the year I was born, was the last time the Pistons showed they were more than just the infamous Bad Boys. The Tigers have made appearances in the World Series but have yet to relive their legendary 1984 season. The Lions have had a tremendous amount of talent come through their system but have yet to reach a Super Bowl.

Nonetheless, we will see a Michigan team raise its trophy high, having to celebrate with soda instead of champagne. For the first time in sixty-two years, a Michigan little league team won maybe the biggest tournament in youth sports. Taylor North Little League completed an epic run in a way no other team could, especially in a very talented tournament such as this one. South Dakota’s Gavin Weir was pitching mid-80s as a pre-teen while also putting up no-hitters and complete shutouts. Hawaii, as usual, made another dominant run but was knocked off in the Hank Aaron championship by none other than Michigan itself.

Yet, Michigan’s path was not a perfect one. Taylor won the Great Lakes region soundly, defeating Wisconsin 10-0, Indiana 9-1,  followed by another 10-0 win over Illinois. Ironically, Michigan would get a preview game of their LLWS championship foe, facing Ohio for the first time. However, this would be way less evenly matched than the championship, as Taylor put up 9 runs to Ohio’s 1.

After making it through regionals, Michigan would fly out to Williamsport, Pennsylvania to play in the real tournament. Unfourtanly, with COVID-19, no international teams were brought over to compete in this year’s event. In the end, it meant there were fewer teams that Michigan would have to go through to reach the finals, but the team would have to play some big-named states to win.

It all started with the opener against Florida. Baseball is a unique game progression-wise, most critically as a pitcher. In the south, the warmer weather makes it easier for players to throw the ball harder, which gives them a development boost in their arms. That factor did not seem to phase the offense of Taylor North, as it would knock 8 runs in a complete 8-0 shutout to move on to face Texas. Texas is so big that it needs its own region named after the state, but that did not scare off North whatsoever. Although this game would be much closer, 3 hits from Lucas Farmer and 4 RBI’s from Cameron Thorning helped lift Michigan to a nail-bitting 6-5 victory.

The next matchup gave Michigan its biggest and most difficult opponent of the game: the powerhouse team of Hawaii. Usually, the Hawaiian team always sneaks into the little dance and makes a very impactful tournament run. Hawaii would get the better of Michigan in this one, winning a narrow 2-0 shutout and sending Michigan down to the losers bracket. This meant the next loss would be elimination from Williamsport.

This did not scare Taylor at all, as it would get a rematch with Texas in the first loser’s bracket game. Michigan would put the hurt on Texas this go-around, winning 15-6 after Jackson Surma led the way with 3 hits and 3 RBIs while also throwing a game-high of 4 strikeouts.

That win shot Michigan back up into the winning side of the Hank Aaron bracket, as it would now be in the bracket championship in a rematch versus Hawaii. This game remained tight all the way through, as Michigan quickly grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first after Thorning hit a two-run moonshot over the wall. Combining with Jakob Furkas for 6 innings pitched, 2 hits given up on 1 run, and 11 total strikeouts.

The story of the championship really comes down to a stellar performance by pitcher Ethan Van Belle. In 4 innings pitched, he gave up only 5 hits and 1 earned run while striking out 8 and walking 3. Surma had another great offensive game, tallying two hits while scoring 4 of the team’s 5 runs and coming around the bases for the last one. In the end, Michigan won the game 5-2 to cap off quite a brilliant tournament run.

The last time a Michigan team won the LLWS was 1959 and a team from good ole’ Hamtramck, Michigan defeated Puerto Rico 5-0, Hawaii 7-1, and California 12-0 in the championship. The kids of Taylor North now get to shine like a celebrity, as they have already visited the Detriot Tigers’ pre-game, and most importantly, they get to travel back to their hometowns saying they have completed something millions of kids dream of. Now, it is time for the team to return home and celebrate. It’s time for Gavin Ulin to also get back to his lawn-mowing business, where he will charge a steady $35-40 per lawn.