I have a deep appreciation of how hard it is to not only make your individual Little League's all star team, but go through the various regional playoffs in your state and region to get to Williamsport, PA where they play the Little League World Series.
I was excited to see for the second time ever in the 66 year history of the LLWS, a team from the African continent break through their region chock full of Middle East based Little League teams with children of expat Americans working in the area and win.
Last year a team from Kampala, Uganda beat a strong Saudi Arabian team in the Middle East-Africa regional finals to become the first African team ever to qualify for the LLWS.
But the joy over that landmark accomplishment was dashed when problems arose with the Ugandan team’s visas and player birth records. That resulted in the Saudi team they vanquished making the trip to Williamsport
This year's team from the Mehta Little League didn't have that problem since they made certain it was comprised of all 11 year olds and the visas were cleared by the US State Department. But they still had to successfully navigate the Middle East/Africa regional tournament in Kutno, Poland once again in order to make history.
That road to reach the LLWS began in July with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia due to a two run homer hit by the Saudis in the top of the 6th inning. The kids from Lugazi bounced back the next day to beat Dubai 6-0 in the first of their must-win games to stay alive in the double elimination tournament. They had to play two must-win games the following day, beating Qatar 13-1 and Kuwait 8-0 to get to the July 16 MEA Regional Championship game.
They beat Kuwait 5-2 to make it the second straight year a Ugandan team has claimed the Middle East/Africa regional tournament title and qualified for the Little League World Series. The Mehta Little League team scored 33 runs in five MEA tourney games with four of them being pressure packed must win ones. They gave up only 5 runs in the MEA Regional to begin the trip of a lifetime representing their town,their country and get a shot at winning the world championship.
The Ugandan squad knew they would be underdogs when they arrived here to play the more experienced international Little League teams, and on Friday they lost to Aguadulce, Panama, 9-3. The next day Uganda lost to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico 12-0 to eliminate them from international division championship consideration ans send them to a consolation game against Gresham, OR..
In their consolation game against the Gresham, OR squad today they broke through for a 3-2 win, the first ever by an African based LLWS squad.
They will officially have a 1-2 record, but they will leave Williamsport having made many fans and accomplishing their goal of making friends. Once the Little League World Series is over they will take in a minor league baseball game and see the United Nations building in New York before heading back home
They will also go back home knowing that they accomplished something that no other African based little league team has ever done in terms of winning a game at the LLWS.