After an impressive run to the Little League Softball World Series, the Gray team opens play Wednesday at 10 p.m. at Alpenrose Stadium in Portland, Ore. The opponent is Kirkland, Wash.
The game can be viewed live on the ESPN+ app or website.
Boone manager Lori Jenkins said she wants her team to take the same approach it had for the Southeast Region tournament, where a 4-3 championship victory over North Carolina propelled the team onto the national stage.
“If we go into this the way we went into Warner Robbins (Ga.) — where we told them to enjoy the moment, have fun, embrace the whole experience and not worry about wins and losses — I think we will have our heads on right,” Jenkins said.
The road ahead
In Pool A with Boone are Kirkland, Tunkhannock (Pa.), Layritz (Victoria, British Columbia) and Northwest Czech Republic. Boone plays Thursday against Layritz (4 p.m.), Friday against Tunkhannock (7 p.m.) and Sunday against the Czech Republic (1 p.m.).
Pool B teams are Wheelersburg (Ohio), Bacolod City (Philippines), Cuauhtemoc (Mexico), Lake Oswego (Ore.) and Eastbank (La.).
The top four teams in each pool advance to the championship bracket on Monday with games slated for 1, 4, 7 and 10 p.m. Those contests will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPNews. Fifth-place finishers get a consolation game Tuesday.
The semifinals are Tuesday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The championship is Aug. 15 at 10 p.m., and will be televised by ESPN.
Jenkins said it appears the Ohio team could be the toughest in the field.
“We watched some of the games on the ESPN+ app, and scouted a little bit,” she said. “That Ohio team looked pretty good, and the pitcher can throw pretty fast. But they are all legitimate teams at this point. You know they are good.”
How they got there
Boone earned its World Series experience by beating state champions from Georgia (12-0) and Florida (9-5) before getting humbled 19-1 by North Carolina on July 29. Later that day, Boone bounced back to knock out West Virginia (7-4) and earn a second chance against North Carolina.
In the title game, Boone took a 3-0 lead before North Carolina battled back to tie. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Kyleigh Bacon hit a one-out, inside-the-park home run for what turned out to be the winning run in the 4-3 decision.
Spoils of victory
Boone made a trip over the mountain to Charlotte, N.C., to catch a flight that was paid for by the Little League organization.
Only four of the 11 players and three coaches had flown before: Jenkins and her daughter, Josie, and assistant coach Steve Croley and his daughter, Riley.
“For the rest of them, it was a brand-new experience,” Jenkins said.