* How It Qualified: Pacific Southwest Region champion.
* Of Note: Bakersfield, Calif., is not a newcomer to the Babe Ruth World Series, having won the tournament when it was in Loudoun County for the first time in 1998 and reaching the semifinals a year ago. But this year's team had to defeat one of the legendary organizations last week in the Pacific Southwest regional to earn a spot in the World Series.
Bakersfield advanced through the winner's bracket and faced San Gabriel Valley in the final. And even though Bakersfield would have had to lose twice to be eliminated from the tournament, it advanced with a dramatic 10-5 victory in nine innings.
Five infield errors gave San Gabriel Valley, which has accounted for 10 World Series titles, an early 3-0 lead. But after rallying to tie the game, Bakersfield broke the game open in the ninth when Corey Davisson's swinging bunt drove in the first of six runs.
Davisson and Fabian Rivera each played in the World Series a year ago, but the rest of the team has been together for only 10 games this summer. The limited experience hasn't seemed to hurt.
"They compete against each other all year long," said Coach Scott Davisson, Corey's father. "This is their first time playing together . . . but it's been a good few years, and the baseball's really strong here."
* How It Qualified: Ohio Valley Region champion.
* Of Note: There has been little rest for the Sutherland family in recent weeks. Fred and Robin Sutherland have spent much of their time on the go, following the baseball exploits of their son, Josh, and their daughter, Megan.
This week, the family is in Mattoon, Ill., watching Megan and the rest of the Prairie Valley softball team compete at the 12-year-old Babe Ruth World Series. Josh was allowed to travel with the family and miss practice with the Beechmont, Ky., 16-year-old baseball team during the early part of the week, Beechmont Coach Barry Terrell said.
"We've been telling [Robin] all along that we were going to make it hard on her," Terrell added.
Once Josh returns and travels with his Beechmont teammates to Loudoun County -- no doubt the rest of the family won't be far behind -- they will begin their quest for a championship.
"Last year, a lot of the kids on this team were involved with a World Series team, and we had a 13-year-old team that went four years ago," Terrell said. "But no one's come back with that big trophy yet."
Two holdovers from last year's team, 6-foot-5 right-hander Marty Popham and catcher Jeff Arnold, are the centerpieces for Beechmont.
COLUMBIA BASIN, Wash.
* How It Qualified: Pacific Northwest Region champion.
* Of Note: For many of the players on the Columbia Basin (Wash.) Junior River Dogs, the trip east will be a first. But for one player on Pacific Northwest regional champion, the long trip to the World Series is a familiar one.
Utility player Jeff Jack, one of Columbia Basin's top players, will be attending his fourth consecutive World Series, after transferring to the Columbia Basin this year. He previously played for a team in Kent, Wash.
"He's very fortunate -- he's been on some good teams," Columbia Basin Coach Chuck Hansen said.
The River Dogs are based in Moses Lake, Wash., but draw players from a large, rural area in the central part of Washington. Jack and Mike Gratigan, another utility player who was the most valuable player in his high school league last year, are key parts of a versatile, athletic team.
In 2000, Columbia Basin hosted the World Series and finished second, the best finish by a host team in the 16-year-old division. The River Dogs were champions in 1995, and they head to Virginia with the mind-set that they can win another championship.
"We're going to come out and go for the championship," Hansen said. "That is our goal."
* How It Qualified: Southwest Region champion.
* Of Note: The alarm clock was set to sound really early this morning at Jeremy Grant's house. He wasn't alone. Grant coaches the Mid-County, Tex., team and was scheduled to leave along with his players from Nederland about 3 a.m. to make a 6:15 a.m. flight in Houston. Their plane was scheduled to land just after lunchtime.
In Mid-County, an area sandwiched in the southeast corner of Texas near the Gulf of Mexico and the Louisiana border, that comes with the job of coaching a Babe Ruth team. Mid-County won previous World Series titles in 2000 (13-year-old) and 2002 (16-year-old).
"I don't think [past success] puts pressure on the kids," Grant said. "There are about six guys who alternate coaching the teams, and you have to live up to that expectation. When one wins, it puts it on the others to do the same."
Much of Mid-County's success will rest on a versatile pitching staff led by left-handers Brandon Powell (two complete games in the Southwest regional) and Eric Sparks and right-hander Madison Smith.
On offense, Grant said his team employs a lineup that does not have a lot of power and instead has to manufacture runs. Central to that is leadoff hitter Garrett McLeod.
"What he does ignites the team," Grant said. "He has good baseball knowledge, gets on base and gets things started."
MINERAL AREA, Mo.
* How It Qualfiied: Midwest Plains Region champion.
* Of Note: A trip to the loser's bracket of the Midwest Plains regional did nothing to derail the World Series goals of Mineral Area, Mo. After an 11-10 loss to host Wellington, Kan. -- a game in which Mineral Area nearly overcame a 9-1 deficit -- the team responded with three straight wins to earn the trip to Purcellville.
That stretch included back-to-back wins over Wellington, 12-0 and 7-2. In the second game, Aaron Blunt's pitching and hitting (two-run home run) and a Dan Harris three-run homer propelled Mineral Area to the victory.
* How It Qualified: Southeast Region champion.
* Of Note: Three years ago in Purcellville, a team from Mobile, Ala., claimed the World Series title for the 16- to 18-year-old division. Affectionately known as the Rawdogs and unmistakable in their swagger and flair for the dramatic -- they won their first and last games in their final at-bat -- Mobile left an impression.
This summer, another talent-laden team from Mobile is returning to Loudoun County.
"They're familiar with it. They know about the Rawdogs and want to play with the Rawdogs if they have the chance," Mobile Coach Darwin Murph said. "There's a lot of talent down here."
Right-hander Tyler Minto headlines this year's team, having helped Mobile claim a spot in the World Series with two pitching victories in the Southeast regional in Warrenton late last month. Minto threw a two-hitter and a three-hitter as Mobile worked its way through the winner's bracket.
In the meantime, the offense was plentiful during regional play. Thanks to the heart of its lineup -- Minto, Will McMillen, Ryne Murch and Kentril Davis -- Mobile averaged 14 hits per game and outscored its four opponents by 34-9.
* How It Qualified: Virginia state champion.
* Of Note: Northern Fairfax may not be the host team for the World Series, but Coach Fritz Holcomb said he expects his team to feel right at home. Northern Fairfax, which earned a berth in the World Series by winning the state Babe Ruth tournament, draws its players from Westfield, Chantilly, Oakton and Herndon high schools.
"There is a comfort level for the kids," Holcomb said. "They get to sleep in their own bed at night. We'll certainly be busy traveling, but the other teams are coming cross-country."
The core of Northern Fairfax's roster has been together for approximately five years, finishing third in the state tournament as 14-year-olds, second a year ago and first this year.
The team's top three pitchers -- Colin Michael (Oakton), John Lloyd (Westfield) and Nick Appolt (Chantilly) -- have varsity experience. The team's leading hitters -- shortstop Chris Despins (Oakton) and second baseman Jonathan Holcomb (Chantilly) -- combined for 30 RBI in the state tournament.
* How It Qualified: New England Region champion.
* Of Note: The combination of an extensive summer schedule and a close-knit baseball community may prove to be an advantage for Stamford, Conn. An area steeped in Babe Ruth history -- Stamford first won a World Series in 1952 and has hosted three others -- and a small area from which it draws players have made for a unique team.
Whereas some teams attract players from much larger areas -- Columbia Basin, Wash., spreads out nearly 100 miles, and Greater Loudoun has team members from eight high schools -- Stamford is much more contained. It has players from four high schools; only Beechmont (three) draws from fewer.
"The kids want to follow the players before them," Stamford Coach Mike Saccardi said. "They're kind of bound together. They take pride that it's all Stamford. We win or lose with what we have."
This year's group will lean heavily on its pitching staff of right-handers Albie Simeone and Kevin Fico and lefties Ian Rabbitt and Joe Mangano.
* How It Qualified: Middle Atlantic Region champion.
* Of Note: Ryan Horning played for the Syracuse Classic All-Stars when the World Series was held in Purcellville in 1998. Now 22, Horning will return to Fireman's Field as the coach for the Syracuse team charged with defending its title.
"It was an unbelievable time," Horning said of the 1998 World Series. "Everything from the field to the host families, everything about it was great. I'm just hoping these guys get to experience it, too."
If last year's success is any measure, the experience could be good again for Horning. Syracuse is the defending 16-year-old national champion, having captured the title last year at Jamestown, N.Y., and the team is rolling again into the World Series.
Syracuse has won all seven of its tournament games, including the New York State title game in Buffalo and the Mid-Atlantic regional in New York City. Starting catcher Mike Perkins batted .500 during the regional, and Matt Holiday hit a grand slam in the final as Syracuse clinched a World Series berth.
"We're trying to stay under the radar as much as we can, but I know that there are some teams that will know we won it last year," Horning said. "Hopefully we'll do okay, but it's all about the experience."
-- DREW VANESSELSTYN and SEAN P. FLYNN