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Hamilton’s West Side Little League team hopes to continue winning tradition into Great Lakes regionals

Hamilton little league practice state champs
Posted at 10:11 PM, Aug 03, 2022

HAMILTON, Ohio — The pop of the catcher’s mitt and sound of a baseball connecting with a bat filled the air at Hamilton’s West Side Little League baseball field.

Wednesday offered one last opportunity to get a few extra swings in before the team gears up to head to Indianapolis for the Great Lakes Region Tournament.

Players don’t have to look very far to see the success of teams of old. The scoreboard is lined with state championship years — including 11 of the past 13. There’s a swagger here, an expectation of success that is delivered on a nearly annual basis.

Tim Nichting jokingly said there’s something in the water in Hamilton.

"They say we have the best water in America," Nichting said. "I guess it’s more tradition than anything.”

Hamilton's Great Lakes Region Tournament bracket
The Great Lakes Region tournament bracket

That winning tradition includes a large sign in right field that reads, '2021 Tom Seaver Champions.' Last year’s team went to Williamsport, Penn. to compete in the Little League World Series. The team lost in the championship game to Michigan.

Nichting said this year presents a new opportunity.

"We don’t have anything yet," Nichting said. "This team is good. We’re good. We’ll compete. We’ll be right in the middle of the Great Lakes region this weekend. It’s hard to compare when we haven’t done nothing compared to what they did last year."

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The Little League World Series, he said, is like kid heaven.

“It means the world to me, making 13-14 kids dream come true," Nichting said.

It’s a heaven Maddox Jones got to see firsthand. And it’s a baseball town he’d like to see once again.

“It was a great experience, going all that way. I just remember how much fun we had last year,” Jones said.

Jones, a third-baseman and pitcher, is the lone returning player from last year’s World Series runner-up team.

“It was just a blast to go that far," Jones said. "And I think that helps this year’s team to see what we did last year, encourages it."

This year’s team lost a game during the state tournament; however, they bounced back with two convincing wins to win the Ohio state championship, and advance to the region tournament.

Blake Sams, a shortstop and pitcher, said the team is ready to take the next step.

"We’ve all played with each other since we were 8," Sams said. "We have chemistry and all that. We feel good about each other. It makes us more desperate to win the next year.”

How far could they go this year?

“I think we could go all the way,” Jones said. “I think this team is really good, really talented.”

Hamilton West Side has a bye in the first round of regionals. They’ll play the winner of Illinois vs. Kentucky on Sunday. The winner of the second-round game will then play the winner of Indiana vs. Michigan on ESPN 2.

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