So, we have to offer our congratulations to our friends from Japan on its third consecutive Cal Ripken World Series title Sunday.

I guess none of us should be surprised by this. If anything, I'd say we should have been more surprised that Japan actually dropped a game in pool play to Dominican Republic. Japan, of course, avenged that loss, but it was a loss either way.

It showed the rest of the international field that Japan was beatable, if only in a somewhat meaningless final pool game for both Japan and Dominican.

That's the reality because regardless of the outcome, the international seeds would have stayed as they were, and Japan won the rematch between the two in the semifinals.

I believe this year's series proved to have more parity than many before it. After Japan's win, manager Koji Okumura said his team is not a dynasty, they are not dominating. I guess you argue that point, but I have to agree with it, too.

Sure, Japan squashed teams from Canada, Australia and Republic of Korea, but show me a year they haven't. The fact is this, since the series was brought to Aberdeen, the international champion has been Mexico or Japan. Mexico's run ended in 2010.

The United States divisions were probably as even as I can remember. Forgive me if my memory is off just a bit, but these series' run together quite often.

For my money, Piedmont, Del., was the best team in either U.S. division. That said, I'm glad the Vegas lines weren't open. Seriously, Piedmont had two pitchers that were as good as anybody's one, but hey, that's why you play the game.

Interestingly enough, Saturday's U.S. Championship game pitted both second seeds from their respective divisions. West Raleigh, N.C., lost to Piedmont in a nine-inning National Division affair, while New Milford, Conn., lost to Elk Grove Calif., in the first American Division game of the tournament.

I was covering the New Milford team more closely because of some stringer work. I knew they didn't have the pitching to win it all, but man, they just found ways to win. Those pitching woes did hurt them in Saturday's final.

I do believe that West Raleigh was the second best team and they proved it. They gave it their best shot against Japan, but were just simply overwhelmed.

So, another year is done and we can patiently wait until next August, when it all comes back around.

Now that it's over, we have to turn our attentions to what's at hand. We all know the high school seasons are about to get into full swing, but we have another issue this year as well.

It's no secret that the Aberdeen IronBirds play into early September, but this year we might get bonus action.

Entering Tuesday's game, the 'Birds were a game and a half on top of the Brooklyn Cyclones in the New York-Penn League's McNamara Division. There's still a week or two left in the season, so anything can happen. It is exciting though, to see the IronBirds in the playoff hunt.

Let's hope they can get it done and bring us some playoff baseball in September.