White Hall Little League coach Bobby Hamilton wasn’t sure his 9- and 10-year-old team would be able to compete at a regional level with players from Louisiana cities with populations well over 40,000.
After a rocky start, his players showed they could do more than just compete with the big cities. The White Hall All-Stars rebounded from a first-round loss to roll off three elimination-game wins and reach the championship of the Southwest Regional.
White Hall couldn’t hold on to a 5-4 lead, ultimately falling 6-5 to Bossier City (Louisiana) National, which beat White Hall 10-0 in the teams’ opening game. The results, though, showed White Hall could compete with places like host Bossier City (population 64,655) and Alexandria, Louisiana (48,367).
“We got tired,” Hamilton said of his team. “We played so well, but we just got tired, I believe.
“We had done well to compete with four Louisiana teams that had pools of 1,600 to 2,000 kids to choose from when we had just 300 in our program. The population itself is different, too. Most of those cities are probably at least 10 times the size of White Hall, Arkansas.”
White Hall’s team was chosen from players on all teams in the Little League program. Chemistry, though, wasn’t an issue, mostly because of familiarity.
“Most of them have been playing together since they were 6 years old,” Hamilton said. “We had very little problems with the kids, and I think that goes back to them playing with each other for four years.”
The White Hall team was put together just ahead of the district tournament. After sweeping its way through that, White Hall went undefeated in the state tournament to qualify for the first-of-its-kind regional along with four Louisiana teams and one from Oklahoma.
“There were six teams, but they’re trying to expand it to 12 next year,” Hamilton said. “They are probably going to have it a week or two earlier next year.
“This was the first time they’ve had it, and some of the places like Colorado and Texas had already started school.”
Despite National winning the regional, there is currently no Little League World Series for 9- and 10-year-olds.
There is a Little League World Series for 11- and 12-year-olds. The tournament is currently ongoing in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The Southwest Regional for that tournament is played in Waco, Texas, with Pine Bluff Western representing Arkansas this year.
If things go right, Hamilton thinks his players could have a chance to compete for a spot in Williamsport in the next couple of years.
“I told them, ‘They’ve got to keep improving,’” Hamilton said of talking with his team. “If they do that, I think they’d have a pretty good chance to go to Waco, Texas.
“Some of the cities we played in Louisiana have represented the Southwest at the World Series. … You could say we played the best-caliber teams in the country, and we competed with them.”