SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Friday's baseball stage appears to be deja vu for Billings Little League players, coaches and fans. Just like Thursday night, Boulder-Arrowhead's 11-12 year-old All-Stars play a nationally-televised game on ESPN to reach next week's Little League World Series.
This time, B/A chases a different outcome against Lake Oswego, Oregon. After Thursday's semifinal loss to Sammamish, Washington, B/A can claim the last Northwest Regional ticket to next week's LLWS in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a win. Fans in Billings have organized another watch party at Buffalo Wild Wings for the 7 p.m. MDT start.
B/A and Oregon share one common denominator: both suffered their only tournament loss to unbeaten Washington. Oregon, however, has played one more game while battling back through loser-out action to eliminate Idaho 14-0 and Wyoming 11-0.
"They're solid," B/A manager Jeff Ballard told MTN Sports. "Like all the teams left, you watch them play defense, run the bases, fundamentally all the teams we've seen that are left, even in the Western Regional, they're all just really talented kids."
The top two teams -- instead of one -- from each regional advance to Williamsport with no international teams invited due the pandemic. If B/A wins Friday, they'll face a rematch with Washington on Saturday for regional championship, then board a charter flight straight to Williamsport, which avoids a lot of travel headaches.
"It really has to happen in my opinion, because it's a pain in the butt, how you have to get to Williamsport, because it's just a small regional airport," Ballard explained. "It's kind of a small town, you can't fly directly in there (on a commercial plane). And it's three hours from everywhere, so you have a long bus ride if you fly into Baltimore, Philly, New York, Pittsburgh or Buffalo. It's all the same distance (from Williamsport) to those towns."
Ballard said his son Kyren, who was hit hard in the chest by a line drive while pitching Thursday night, is sore with a noticeable bruise but will play against Oregon. He added that pitcher Jaxon King will start on the mound.