A week of tough competition at Ripken Series set to kick off

The 16 squads playing in the 2013 Cal Ripken 12U Major 70 World Series in Aberdeen, which come from as close as Hickory and as far as Australia, are setting up for a 10-day, world-class tournament that will feature some elements not seen in years past.

The team playing closest to home will be the 12U Hickory Hornets, who won their spot in the tournament by taking first in the Cal Ripken District Tournament. The Hornets have yet to lose this season. They will kick off this year's tournament Friday at Cal Sr.'s Yard with an 8 p.m. game against another squad playing not too far from their home, the Middle Atlantic representatives from Piedmont, Del.

Both the Harford County and Delaware squads are playing in the National Division, which is rounded out by three other teams: The Midwest Plains side from Mineral Area, Mo., the Southeast squad from West Raleigh, N.C., and the Ohio Valley team from Southeast Lexington, Ky.

The five American Division squads are: the Pacific Northwest team from Meridian, Idaho, the Pacific Southwest team from Laguna, Calif., the New England team from New Milford, Conn., the Southwest team from Mountain Home, Ark. and the home-state Maryland representatives from Charles County.

The six-team International Division is made up of teams from Canada, the Dominican Republic, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Australia and the 2012 champ, Japan.

New to this year's tournament is an All-Star Game, which we be played at Cal. Sr.'s Yard at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15.

On Friday, after pool play has been concluded and the elimination-round seedings have been established, the top-seeded American Division team will play the second-seeded National Division team, while the top-seeded National Division team will square off with the second-seeded American Division side. The winner of those two games will play in the U.S. Championship game on Saturday, and whoever comes out on top of that contest moves on to the World Championship Game on Sunday afternoon. The International Division semifinal games also will be played on Friday, with the top four seeds squaring off against each other.

The teams not making it to the tournament semifinal rounds will play a round of contests dubbed the Platinum and Diamond Bracket games on Thursday. The Diamond Bracket will have the third-seeded American Division team playing the fifth-seeded International team, and the third-seeded National Division team playing the fourth-seeded American Division team. The Platinum Bracket has the fifth-seeded teams from the American and National Divisions squaring off, while the fourth-seeded National Division side will play the sixth-seeded International Division team. The winners of each bracket semifinal game will meet each other on Friday for a final game.

The first game Friday follows the opening ceremony from 5 to 5:30 p.m., then the skills competition, which will include a home run derby from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The fans who stay long on Friday night to see the opening game conclude will be rewarded with a fireworks show. That is scheduled for 10 p.m.

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