Trip to Bristol a dream come true for Lower Sussex

By Andy Walter
Posted 7/19/21

MILLSBORO — Reaching a Little League regional is difficult under normal conditions.

But the COVID pandemic has made it even harder lately.

After last year’s regionals were wiped out …

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Trip to Bristol a dream come true for Lower Sussex

Lower Sussex All Stars pitcher Maggie Bare fires one in against M.O.T. All Stars on Monday night in Frankford.   Butch Comegys / Special to the Delaware State News
Lower Sussex All Stars pitcher Maggie Bare fires one in against M.O.T. All Stars on Monday night in Frankford. Butch Comegys / Special to the Delaware State News
Posted

MILLSBORO — Reaching a Little League regional is difficult under normal conditions.

But the COVID pandemic has made it even harder lately.

After last year’s regionals were wiped out completely, only Little League’s Major League division is holding anything beyond state tournaments this summer.

So the Lower Sussex Major softball all-stars realize how special it is for them to be heading to a regional.

“This is beyond exciting,” said manager Jesse Bare. “I’ve known these girls since I coached them two years ago. Their only goal this entire season ... was to make it to Bristol.”

Lower Sussex will indeed be heading for Bristol, Connecticut. at the end of the week. The squad earned the trip to the Eastern Regional after winning both the District III and state titles in Little League’s division for 11-12 year olds.

In its opener in the 10-team, double-elimination tournament, Lower Sussex faces New Jersey on Saturday at 1 p.m. The contest can be seen on ESPN-plus.

When its all said and done, the East champion gets a berth in the World Series in Greenville, N.C.

While every team goes to Bristol with the dream of making it to the World Series, Bare said his only goal right now is making sure his players’ East Regional trip the best it can be.

“From here on out, it’s just to go up there and make sure they have the experience of a lifetime,” said Bare. “We’ll take each ballgame and see how it goes — just have fun and enjoy the process while we’re up there.”

Clearly, it’s been thrilling for Lower Sussex’ players and families just to get this far. In both the District III and state tournaments, Lower Sussex lost the first championship game only to win the second and advance.

The last five all-star tourney games for Lower Sussex have all been decided by three runs or less.

“In almost every single ballgame we were behind at some point,” said Bare, whose oldest daughter, Maggie, is on the team. “They just never stopped. I joke around and call them the ‘cardiac kids’ sometimes because they always seem to wait until about the fourth inning to come back and take the lead.

“It’s always stressful,” he added with a laugh.

Two years ago, this same bunch of players won the state title in the 8-10 year-old division. But there was no regional for that age group.

Getting a team and their families up to Connecticut adds a whole layer of details that have to be dealt with before the team can play its next game. The players will be staying in a dorm at the Bristol complex.

“It’s been non-stop ever since we won the states — the amount of paperwork, making arrangements for everybody and all that,” said Bare. “But Lower Sussex Little League has been extremely helpful and so has (Little League headquarters) Williamsport.”

There’s no reason to think Lower Sussex can’t be competitive in the East Regional. In 2018, another Lower Sussex squad went 4-2 in the tournament, falling just one game short of the East finals.

On the other hand, it’s pretty difficult to know what the competition will be like in a regional. As of Monday, New Jersey’s state champion hadn’t even been decided yet.

The Maryland state champion is Delmar.

No matter how things go for Lower Sussex on the field, Bare is excited that the players earned this trip for themselves.

“Watching them play all season on their individual teams and then getting them on the all-star team and watching them fight in every single ballgame, it’s been awesome,” he said.