Oh, what a Cal Ripken World Series we are having.
Let me start with the obvious and the play of Harford County's host team this year. Yes, folks, I said Harford County's host team.
The Hickory Hornets have given host team a new meaning. The team, entering Tuesday's final pool game, had won all three games played and did so in solid fashion.
Hickory beat Bear, Del., 5-1, on opening night and that should have been a good indicator that this team is no joke. Hickory had good pitching, timely hitting and solid defense. It's hard to lose when you do those three things well. That win, by my count, and I've been around all 12 of these series, was a first for any Harford team in its first game.
Then after an off-day Saturday, Hickory came back Sunday and put together another impressive outing. I could not witness this game in person, but it was the same result. Hickory got another game of good pitching. The opposing team had nine hits, but just one run on the scoreboard in the 8-1 Hickory win.
Hickory had nine hits as well, but the difference came on the mound. Hickory pitchers Tyler Schimming and Tyler Leach did not walk a batter. On the contrary, Hickory was the recipient of seven walks. Hickory also played another game with flawless defense.
Hickory closed out its three-win run Monday afternoon with an 8-2 victory. Pitching was still good with just two walks, while receiving six. Defense was a bit shaky with two errors, but nothing to get crazy about.
The formula is working and that's all I can say. I also want to say that I don't remember just how long ago it was, but someone or two or three, had some thought of doing away with the host team in the series. I voiced my disapproval in a column then and I believe no need to say anymore about it in this one.
To no one's surprise, Japan is back to defend its three consecutive titles and doing so in dominant fashion. One score, though, does surprise me and bothers me a bit, just as well.
Japan beat the Dominican Republic by a count of 31-0. For touchdowns, with extra points and a field goal to boot. Oh, wrong sport, but that is more likely a football score than a baseball score isn't it?
I know the Dominicans had eight errors and Japan had 25 hits. But 31-0? Really. That was another game that I did not see and am quite thankful.
I said last week that Puerto Rico might bring something to the series. At least in pool play, I was right.
Like Hickory, Puerto Rico has displayed good pitching, big hitting and solid defense. The defense at times has even been flashy.
So, what to think about what will happen in this year's series final.
Here's what I will say: starting with the international teams, it's obvious that Japan and Puerto Rico are just a bit stronger than the others. That said, I don't believe you or I should ever count out Mexico. The Mexican team showed that in Monday's night's 4-3 loss to Japan.
At the end, though, I have to think Japan will be back in the world title game.
As for the United States, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see a team from Maryland in that final, too. Yes, I said Maryland. Prince George's County and Hickory.
If not one of them, look for West Raleigh to repeat as U.S. champions and gain a rematch with Japan. I believe the trophy is leaving the U.S again.
Enjoy the series.