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Somerset Hills Little League team to play on MSG Network
Somerset Hills LL continues to edge closer to the Little League World Series -- it is now two wins away from Williamsport, Pa. -- and its game Wednesday night against Staten Island will be televised on MSG at 7 p.m.

Both teams are 3-0 in pool play and have already advanced to the semifinal round, which begins on Thursday. However, the Staten Island team, the champions of New York State, and Somerset Hills, New Jersey's champion, could meet down the road in the regional finals.



Somerset state champs head for Little League playoffs
by Brent Johnson/For The Star-Ledger
Thursday August 06, 2009, 8:03 PM
SOMERSET COUNTY -- This wasn't expected to happen to the 12- and 13-year-olds on the Somerset Hills Little League baseball team.

Over the next few days, they'll play on national television. Face some of the best players in the Northeast. And vie for something that no team from New Jersey has seen in a decade: a trip to Williamsport, Pa.

It all starts Friday, when the team that surprisingly won its first New Jersey state title four days ago opens the Mid-Atlantic Little League tournament in Bristol, Conn.

They'll play the champs from Washington, D.C. at 5 p.m. in their first of at least four games.

The winner of the six-team tournament moves on to play in the Little League World Series in Williamsport -- something only eight teams from New Jersey have ever done. The last team to make it to the tournament was Toms River in 1999, a year after capturing the crown.

"It's completely unexpected," Leo Cassidy, a member of the Somerset Hills Little League board, said of the team's success.

Size is what makes it so shocking. Somerset Hills draws from a small pool of players from Bernardsville and Peapack-Gladstone. Usually, teams from much larger areas advance.

"I've been doing Little League for 17 years," said Gary Levensen, the chief umpire and statistician for District 17, the New Jersey district Somerset Hills plays in. "I've seen Livingston go on, Randolph go on. You always see Toms River go on.

"But Somerset Hills is a small team. A lot of people think Bernardsville is a big town. It's not."
Players and coaches were practicing today and were not available for comment.
Somerset Hills is undermanned, carrying 10 players -- unlike the 12 or 13 most teams in the Mid-Atlantic have.

But the squad enters tomorrow tonight's game 17-0, outlasting a pool of 250 teams from New Jersey to get there.

That includes a win over heavily favored North Hunterdon for the District 17 title. And, a 10-5 win over Haddonfield in Tuesday's state title game, bolstered by home runs from Connor Kirst, J.P. Tantleff and Luke Bowerbank. Jonathan Iaione drove in the winning run with a bases-loaded walk.

Officially, it was Somerset Hills' first state championship. But players from Bernardsville were part of the Bernardsville-Basking Ridge state title team in 1981. That team lost in the now-defunct East Region tournament, losing their only game in the single-elimination bracket.

Somerset Hills will have a better chance of advancing this week, because the Mid-Atlantic tournament -- which also features the champs from Maryland, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania -- utilizes pool play. That means the team could lose two of its four games and still advance to the semifinals next Thursday and Friday.

There are many age levels in Little League, but only teams with 12- and 13-year-olds compete in the World Series. Those teams consist of the best players from towns across the country.

Only four New Jersey teams have won a World Series title: Hammonton in 1949, Wayne in 1970, Lakewood in 1975 and Toms River in 1998.
 

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Nice. I hope they win.
 
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