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Five things to know about the Torrance Little League team ahead of the World Series

River Ridge, La. lines the third baseline and Curacao lines the first baseline during team introductions.
The River Ridge, La., team, left, and Curacao line up for the Little League World Series championship game in Williamsport, Pa., in 2019.
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

For the first time in almost three decades, a Los Angeles County team will participate in the Little League Baseball World Series beginning on Thursday.

Torrance Little League will open play in Williamsport, Pa., after finishing second place in the West Regional last week, becoming the first L.A. County team since Northridge in 1994 to reach the final stage of the national tournament.

“Coming to Williamsport is surreal,” coach Javier Chavez said. “It’s the biggest stage in Little League baseball. Playing on these beautiful fields and stadiums and having the exposure for the kids … it’s a dream come true for all of us.”

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Here are five things to know as the event gets underway.

Cardiac kids

After advancing with ease through their district tournament earlier this summer, Torrance walked a tightrope in both the Southern California and West Region championship.

In the Southern California event, Torrance lost its opener against a highly touted Eastlake Little League squad, forcing the team to win five consecutive elimination games to make it to the final. There, Torrance met Eastlake again, winning twice to advance to the West Regional for the first time in its Little League’s history.

In the regional, which was held in San Bernardino, Torrance again lost its opening game but managed to navigate the elimination bracket once more, winning in extra innings against Nevada before knocking off Utah and Petaluma National from Northern California to punch its ticket to Williamsport.

By then, the team’s parents had bestowed the squad with an unofficial nickname: The Cardiac Kids.

“For them to be able to come up on top every single time, it’s just a sense of pride,” said Krista Cornett, who is president of Torrance Little League and has a son, two-way player Levi Cornett, on the team. “You see the hard work and the trust they have to have in each other, and the respect they have to have with each other, it’s been amazing.”

Will he show enough in the Summer League to ensure that he will have a seat on an NBA bench when the regular season begins?

Another key factor: Most of the boys on the team — a 14-player squad of 10- to 12-year-olds — have been playing with and against each other for years, a bond that Chavez, whose son Christian is an outfielder on the team, said was evident during the run to Williamsport.

“They’ve pretty much all played together since Tee ball,” Chavez said. “We knew it was going to be a strong team.”

Tournament field

After last year’s event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Little League World Series is returning this week with some modifications.

The biggest change: There are no international teams participating this year because of pandemic restrictions. Instead, all 16 teams came from the U.S. — with two teams advancing from each region, instead of one as normal.

The Little League team from Honolulu was the other to advance out of the West Region. Honolulu beat Torrance in the West Region final, though both teams had already secured a Series berth by then.

In a bubble

In an effort to ensure safety for participants in this year’s event, all teams will be in a quasi-bubble during the duration of the tournament. Players and coaches will be isolated, largely going between the field and dormitories without any other contact.

“They’re really trying to keep things as safe as possible for the boys and the coaches,” Cornett said. “Interaction will be seeing them as they’re going back to their dorms through a gate, and that’s about it.”

Parents, family and friends will at least be permitted to attend the games.

Originally, organizers were planning to make several thousand tickets available to spectators. But with coronavirus cases rising around the country, it was decided to limit attendance to only those associated with the participating teams, with each team getting 250 passes for each game.

“We’ve watched videos [of past Little League World Series],” Cornett said, “but I don’t think you can really prepare yourself until you get there and you really see what it’s going to be.”

Granada Hills Charter says it won’t allow fans into Friday’s football game against Arleta. That may mean Granada Hills won’t host playoff games.

Little League rules

Little League games are regulation six innings and played on smaller-dimension fields, with 60 feet between each base and 46 feet between the pitching rubber and home plate.

Teams also must adhere to pitching usage rules. No pitcher may throw more than 85 pitches in a game (it may only be exceeded to finish an at-bat). And pitchers must rest for a specific number of days depending on how many pitches they throw: four days for 66 pitches or more, three for 51-65 pitches, two for 36-50 and one for 21-35.

Television and schedule information

All games will be televised by either ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. Torrance opens play against New Hampshire at 4 p.m. on Thursday on ESPN. After that, they will play again on either Saturday (if they lose) or Sunday (if they win). The semifinals and final will take place on Aug. 28 and 29.


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