WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — The best description heard about Mountain Ridge players at the Little League World Series: They’re the San Antonio Spurs.
The best team in a tournament that doesn’t say all that much.
“We don’t get caught up in it,” pitcher/infielder Austin Kryszczuk said. “We don’t really care about the hype or getting attention. We just hope to keep winning.”
The West champions out of Las Vegas next oppose the Mid-Atlantic champions from Philadelphia at 4:30 p.m. PDT today at Lamade Stadium, with a spot in Saturday’s U.S. championship game on the line.
In the past week, ESPN has unquestionably featured specific storylines more than others, beginning with tonight’s pitcher (Mo’ne Davis) for the Mid-Atlantic side.
Pierce Jones of the Great Lakes champions from Chicago also has been well represented on the TV screen, as was spirited and emotional manager David Belisle of the New England champions before his team was eliminated Monday night.
Mountain Ridge has done its talking on the mound and with its bats, having outscored two opponents 25-4.
“They have good hitting and pitching, but unless someone is blowing 80 (mph) against us, no one is going to stop us,” Mid-Atlantic catcher Scott Bandura said. “We hit good pitching. I think Mo’ne is going to quiet their bats and have her best game and we will be all right.”
His teammates were a tad less outspoken in their belief that they will defeat Mountain Ridge, but no less confident. The Mid-Atlantic team had just rallied to defeat the Southwest champions from Texas 7-6 on Sunday night when questions about their next opponent came firing from different directions.
“They’re a good team that had to beat good people to get here, but so did we,” Mid-Atlantic outfielder Tai Shanahan said. “If Mo’ne is pitching well, I think we will pull it out.”
The matchup definitely has an East vs. West cloud hanging over it, a Mountain Ridge side in which all 14 of its players compete for year-round travel ball programs and a team from Philadelphia in which six of its 12 players do.
This isn’t your father or grandfather’s Little League.
These kids never stop playing.
“(Mountain Ridge) is very, very good, but I’ve seen them and we will be able to compete,” Mid-Atlantic manager Alex Rice said. “We’re not intimidated. We absolutely respect that team. They are tremendous. But we will be ready. I don’t know about scary. They’re just very good.”
Meanwhile, after a two-hour practice Tuesday, this is how Mountain Ridge’s best player put it:
“Just focus on our team, play unselfishly and hope for the best,” Kryszczuk said.
Tim Duncan couldn’t have said it any better.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.