SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Gripping a shiny new aluminum bat, 12-year-old Patrick Marinaccio took some hacks in the batting cage and loved what he heard.

Ping! Ping! Ping!

The sweet sounds of contact are reverberating again through the sprawling Little League baseball complex in this blue-collar Pennsylvania town.

The World Series begins today.

String together a few of those hits over the next 10 days on the pristine field at Lamade Stadium and Marinaccio and his teammates from Toms River, N.J., can take home one of the biggest prizes in youth sports and extend a U.S. string of five straight World Series titles.

For now, Marinaccio will gladly settle for a few swings with his new baseball gear.

“It’s amazing,” Marinaccio said. “The batting gloves have a nice grip. The helmets. And the bats are really nice.”

A championship for the Toms River team would make it the second squad from the Jersey shore town to take a Little League crown. A different Toms River local league sent a team that won the 1998 World Series and earned the nickname the “Beasts from the East.”

Of the 16 teams in South Williamsport, three others have a chance to bring their hometowns a second championship banner, though the same local league advanced in each case: Kaoshiung, Taiwan (1996); Columbus, Ga., (2006); and Waipahu, Hawaii (2008).

Four years removed from his World Series run, Georgia Manager Randy Morris remains so familiar to a few workers at the Little League complex that they said hellos as he supervised infield practice for his boys.

“This isn’t your first time at the rodeo, is it?” someone yelled.

Outfielder Matthew Lang was here in 2006, too, when he watched his older brother Ryan, also an outfielder, celebrate as a member of that year’s Columbus team.

“Every time they’d play, I was wishing I was on the field,” 13-year-old Matthew said. “That was crazy.”

Wish granted, with a couple wrinkles to the series from the last time Columbus was here.

First, the World Series is moving from pool play to a double-elimination format in the first round, a change Little League President Stephen Keener said eliminates the need for tiebreakers to determine which squads advance to the U.S. and international semifinals.

Little League has expanded the instant replay system used only in the World Series to include forceouts, missed bases and hit batters, and to allow managers to challenge certain calls.


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