Put Me In, Coach!

About 6,500 leagues compete each year in Little League baseball and softball in the United States and 80+ countries. With only 20 advancing to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, it’s quite amazing that Nolenville has sent teams in consecutive years twice since 2013.

Town players were part of the South Nashville group that made it in 2013 and 2014 and again as the Nolensville Little League in 2021 and 2022. The most recent iteration was guided by Randy Huth who begins the quest to become the first coach to be there three straight years July 1.

“It’s the hardest youth sports tournament in the whole world,” Huth said. “The percentage chance of making it there is zero.”

To make it to the World Series, a team must win in its district, state, and region. Consisting of boys ages 11-12, Nolensville captured the Southeast Regional in Warner Robins, Georgia, beating teams from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

In 2022, Nolensville won its first three World Series games before losing to Honolulu, Hawaii, 13-0 in the winner’s bracket title game. It then beat Pearland, Texas, 7-1, in the loser’s bracket championship to earn a rematch with Hawaii in the U.S. title game. Nolensville lost 5-1 and lost to Chinese Taipei 2-0 to place fourth overall.

In 2021, Nolensville lost to Hamilton, Ohio, 1-0, in extra innings and 4-1 to Hookset,
New Hampshire.

“It was crazy. It’s just such a magical experience,” Huth said. “It’s something you dream about as a kid watching it on TV. When you see Japan against the United States as a little kid. Anybody who puts on a baseball uniform wished they had that opportunity. And when you get there and you are playing in front of 25,000 people, it’s absolutely magic. That place is just a special place.

“Playing those kids from Chinese Taipei was neat. Although they didn’t speak our language it was cool to see the kids communicate through baseball.”

Nolensville received the Jack Losch Sportsmanship Award last year in large part because of the compassion players showed the Santa Clara, Utah, team which had a player seriously injured after falling off a bunk bed. Nolensville players bought Utah hats and wore them during warmups then autographed them and gave them to the Utah players.

Huth remembers the 2013 and 2014 teams well as South Nashville eliminated his Clarksville squad both years at the state level. In 2013, South Nashville lost its first game, won its next two, and lost its fourth game. The next year it lost both of its games.

One of Huth’s best friends, Chris Mercado, coached South Nashville back then and assisted Huth in 2021 and will again this year. Huth has been coaching Little League for 21 years following his father Jim who did the same for 44 years. Before making it to Williamsport in 2021, Huth had never experienced the magic of the LLWS.

“It’s just something you can’t even put into words,” he said. “It’s the coolest place, the coolest fields, and atmosphere. That entire city works around the Little League
World Series.”

Huth had two kids from 2021 play in 2022 – pitcher-catcher Jack Rhodes and shortstop William Satinoff. Two players from last year’s group – shortstop-pitcher Nash Carter (second base last year) and left-handed pitcher-centerfielder Grayson May – are back this year. Carter’s father Mark returns as one of Huth’s assistants.

“There’s no substitute for experience,” Huth said. “Going in 2021 with no experience, not knowing what to expect, it was a different world. We were in shock and awe. Going back, we were ready. We had a better understanding of what was going to happen. We had those two players tell the rest of the team ‘Here’s what you can expect.’ ”

Huth said this year’s team is good enough to return to Williamsport.

“We are really talented,” he said. “But you need a lot of things to go your way. You have to stay healthy. You’ve got to get a little bit of luck but also have to perform under the big lights.”

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