It’s the dream of Little League players, not only around the country, but the entire world, to compete in the Little League World Series tournament in Williamsport every August. However, it’s an experience few young players get, and that’s what makes it so special. In the past couple decades, a number of Rhode Island communities have sent teams to Williamsport, PA, to participate in this summer baseball classic. This year, Smithfield earned their place among the select few teams to make it to the big dance, or in this case, the little dance. In either case, for the Rhode Islanders who followed Smithfield’s journey in this summer’s tournament, it was a season to remember.
The road was not an easy one for Smithfield, who overcame a 10-1 loss to Massapequa, NY in regional play, before going on to collect consecutive victories against Connecticut and New Jersey, to set themselves up for a rematch with Massapequa. Smithfield came out on top this time, and they were crowned the Metro Region champs, earning a berth in the Little League World Series.
If you’re wondering where the Metro region designation came from, it is one of 10 United States’ regions that currently send teams to the Little League World Series (LLWS). The region was created in 2022, when the LLWS was expanded from 16 teams (eight U.S. teams in one division, and eight “international” teams, from the rest of the world, in the 2nd division) to 20 teams (10 U.S. and 10 international). The Metro Region is made up of four states, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Rhode Island used to compete in the New England Region, and the East Region before that.
The 10 U.S. regions and the town/city teams representing them in the 2023 Little League World Series included; Great Lakes (New Albany, OH), Mid-Atlantic (Media, PA.), Metro (Smithfield, RI), Midwest (Fargo, ND), Mountain (Henderson, NV), New England (Gray, Maine), Northwest (Seattle, WA.), Southeast (Nolensville, TN), Southwest (Needville, TX) and West (El Segundo, CA). The international teams included Asia-Pacific, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Cuba, Europe-Africa, Japan, Latin America, Mexico, and Panama. The winners from each of the divisions (U.S. and international) square off to compete for the Little League World Series’ championship.
To recap the tournament for Smithfield, they took the opening game, defeating Henderson, Nevada (Mountain Region), 3-1. They dropped their next game to the Southeast Region team from Nolensville, TN, by a score of 8-1. Smithfield then registered a 7-2 bounce back win against the Mid-Atlantic Region representatives from Media, Pennsylvania. Smithfield was then slated to play a lower round three game against West Region champs from El Segundo, CA, who also had a 3-1 record. The California team claimed a 9-3 victory, eliminating Smithfield and ending their fairy tale season.
The Smithfield team and the entire state of Rhode Island have a lot to be proud of for what was accomplished in Williamsport in August. The boys gave it their all, but came up just a bit short against the team that would go on to capture the 2023 Little League World Series championship by beating Curacao, a small nation in the south Caribbean Sea, by a score of 6-5. California won in dramatic style, with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 6th inning.
Overall, Smithfield became the 13th team from Rhode Island to reach the Little League World Series. The others being Westerly in 1950, Darlington American in 1980, Cranston West in 1996, Lincoln, in 2001 and 2004, Cumberland American, in 2011 and 2014, Cranston West, again in 2015, Warwick North, in 2016, Coventry in 2018, and Barrington, in 2019.
Of these 13 talented Rhode Island teams that have qualified for the Little League World Series, the 1996 Cranston West team went the furthest, finishing runner-up on the world stage, after getting beat by Taiwan for the World Series’ championship.
This year, we pay tribute to these boys from Smithfield, and the coaching staff, who competed in the Little League World Series, and who took us all on an exciting baseball journey with them….
Brayden Castellone, Royce Aglione, Connor Curtis, Henry Begnoche, Mason Dionne, John Wozniak, Gavin Gibree, Gavin Cadoret, Connor Queenan, Cameron Charlemagne, Brady McShane, Franco Lema, Manager Eric Gibree, Coach Guytano Agilone, Coach Steve Curtis.
Congratulations boys! We are all extremely proud of each and every one of you!