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Color change for North State

LLWS Baseball
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The U.S. Southeast team from Greenville participates in the opening ceremony of the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa., Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, August 18, 2017

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — North State has been here almost a week, and its players and coaches have shed their traditional green and grey colors associated with Greenville Little Leagues for Little League International-issued U.S. “Southeast” gear that is yellow and black.

They also have new gloves, cleats and bats — also provided by Little League International — that they will use tonight in their opening game at the Little League World Series against Sioux Falls, S.D. 

“For all I care, we would be all-pink. Just to be here in all of this gear is a crazy feeling,” North State player Bryce Jackson said.

The game is at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast by ESPN.

Fans who made the trip and who might not have made the full transition to yellow-and-black clothing will likely do so soon.

“We still have a green heart, but we want to wear our yellow,” said Corrie Williams, the mother of Cameron Greenway.

Williams’ husband, Tyler, said it took “about five minutes” after the Greenville team won the Southeast Regional on Aug. 9 for parents to start looking at and pre-ordering yellow Southeast apparel.

Southeast T-shirts at the on-site store range from $20 to $35. Hats are $25. 

All of the World Series games are broadcast nationally on ESPN networks, which is a continuation of last week when North State’s Southeast Regional semifinal and championship victories were televised on the network.

But being in Williamsport feels different, and that feeling ramped up Thursday with Day 1 action even though Greenville doesn’t play until tonight.

“I’ve been watching this since I was 3 or 4 years old and always wanted to be that kid on the mound,” said Chase Anderson, who is slated to be the team’s starting pitcher against Sioux Falls. “I have my chance and want to do my best. I’d say I thrive under pressure and mainly want to just go out there and show what I got.”

Pitch count rules often play a big factor in outcomes, and there also are playing time rules to ensure all players see action in every contest. Each player must complete one plate appearance as a batter and on defense be on the field for three consecutive outs.

North State has 13 players.

Days off during the double-elminiation tournament play into the long-term strategy with pitching. If North State beats the squad from South Dakota then it gets Saturday off and plays again Sunday afternoon, but if loses tonight then it plays again Saturday at 8 p.m. in an elimination game.

North State is the first North Carolina representative at the LLWS since 2004. It is 12-0 this summer, sweeping games in Morehead City for district play and then winning the state tournament in Morganton before going 4-0 last week at the regional in Warner Robins, Ga., to earn one of the 16 spots in the LLWS field that is split evenly between U.S. and international teams.

“We are playing ping pong with people from Japan and they whoop us all the time,” Anderson said. “We’ve been trading shirts with other players and I got an Australia beanie, which is pretty cool. ... I’d love to just do this the whole time, but baseball is baseball so we’ll just go out there and do our best.”

After Thursday’s practice, North State coach Brian Fields stressed to his players the balance between baseball and fun at this unique event. He told them to make sure to spend quality time with family members and enjoy their Thursday night, but to also get rest and be ready to go by this morning.

“These guys aren’t here by luck and they are all good teams, but now it’s just a matter of polishing up and getting mentally ready to play,” Fields said. “We are trying to keep the same routines.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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