Asian team qualifies for Junior League series

Saipan is the first of 10 teams to qualify for the 2009 Junior League World Series of baseball in Taylor.
Saipan, located in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, recently won the Asia-Pacific regional championship in Jakarta, Indonesia, and will compete for the world title Aug. 16 through 22 at Taylor’s Heritage Park.
The boys from Saipan emerged from the Asia-Pacific region of five teams with a 3-1 record in pool play. They defeated Hong Kong 19-8 and Indonesia 7-4 and then lost to Guam 6-0. A 21-18 win over the Philippines put Saipan into the finals for a rematch with Guam. In the regional championship game, Saipan won 10-9.
Teams from Saipan are no strangers to the World Series for the best teams of 13- and 14-year-old baseball players from around the globe. Saipan played five straight seasons in Taylor from 2001 through 2005. This will be the sixth appearance for Saipan boys in the 11 years the Asia-Pacific champion has appeared in the JLWS.
No Asia-Pacific champion won more than one game in Taylor until 2007, when a team from the Philippines went 5-1 – its only loss in the world championship game to Pearl City, Hawaii.
The Philippines also represented the Asia-Pacific region last year, but did not emerge from pool play, finishing with a 2-2 record.
“We look forward to welcoming back Saipan to Taylor,” said World Series Director Greg Bzura. “This will be the sixth time, but of course they aren’t the same kids. The Asia-Pacific Region is getting better, as evidenced by the fantastic performances here by the Philippines. I hope it continues to progress.”
Saipan will be one of five teams in the International Pool. The others will be the regional champions of Latin America and an area that includes Europe, the Middle East and Africa, plus the national champions of Canada and Puerto Rico.
Games in the Latin America Region were played earlier this month in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The EMEA Region play begins July 14 in Kutno, Poland. The Canadian national tournament begins Thursday.
The other five teams in the World Series will make up the USA Pool in Taylor. Regional tournaments begin in August in New Jersey, California, Texas, Georgia and Indiana. The Michigan state champions in the 13- and 14-year-old division will play in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Taylor will be a host city for the Junior League World Series of baseball for the 29th consecutive year. Opening ceremonies will take place Aug. 15. Pool play is set for Aug. 16 through 20. The International and USA champs will be crowned Aug. 21 and will play for the world title on Aug. 22.
The championship game will be televised by the ESPN family of networks.
Taylor has hosted the Junior League World Series since its inception in 1981.
The defending champion is from Willemstad, Curacao, which defeated Hilo, Hawaii, in the world championship game, 5-2. Curacao became the first team from the Netherlands Antilles and the first team from the Caribbean to win the trophy in the 13- and 14-year-old division.
For more information on the Junior League World Series in Taylor, go to www.cityoftaylor.com/worldseries.

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