SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — It was a bittersweet send-off filled with goodbyes and growing excitement as members of the Sioux Falls Little League All-Stars left for their regional tournament in Indiana on Thursday.
These South Dakota state champs will advance to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, if they finish first or second in Indianapolis. COVID-19 protocols are raising the stakes for the upcoming games.
Members of the Sioux Falls Little League All-Stars are brimming with confidence as they prepare for their trip to Indianapolis and their regional tournament.
“I think that we’re going to win in Indiana. And then I believe we are going to go on to win the World Series,” first baseman Hayden Gorsett said.
Two vans filled with excited 12-year-olds on a lengthy road trip will be a coaching challenge all its own.
“I have a 12-year-old, so I know how just one 12-year-old is in a vehicle. So now, we’re going to put 14? It’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be really interesting,” Head Coach Mike Gorsett said.
These young players look to the 2017 Sioux Falls Little League team that went all the way to the World Series as their role models, hoping to follow in their footsteps.
“I think we’ve all spent hours watching them on YouTube what they have done in regionals and World Series and so, they’re definitely role models,” third baseman Noah Kuenzi said.
But this year, any positive tests for COVID-19 will lead to an early exit from regionals.
“We have to compete against other teams. Our first opponent is Iowa. So we have to compete against them, but really, we’re also competing against COVID, too. One positive test and we’re being sent home,” Gorsett said.
“I’ve already tested. I was negative. We have to test again in Indiana, so during the ride, whenever we have to stop like at a restaurant or at a gas station, we’re all going to have to put on masks,” Hayden said.
Since these Little Leaguers will be in a mini-bubble in Indianapolis, this was their last chance to get close to family before embracing their destiny on the diamond that caps off a long journey east.
“One, two, three, Soo Foo!”
The team will spend the night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and then arrive in Indianapolis Friday. Their first game is Saturday.
You can track their progress on the team’s Facebook page.