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Sportsmanship on full display in LLWS

A spectacular moment during the Little League Baseball World Series reminded us that it's not about wins and losses, but how the game is played
MLB.com

The Little League Baseball World Series has its share of flashy plays and big home runs, but the passion and emotion from its participants, win or lose, make it special. With these emotions comes the opportunity for tremendous displays of sportsmanship that transcend every other level of the game, whether it's your town's opening day this month or the pinnacle of the youth game.

During the 2017 LLBWS, the Caribbean Region and the Latin America Region were locked in a close game, with the Caribbean representatives from the Dominican Republic holding a 2-1 lead. With runners on first and second base and one out in the bottom of the sixth, weather halted the game.

The Little League Baseball World Series has its share of flashy plays and big home runs, but the passion and emotion from its participants, win or lose, make it special. With these emotions comes the opportunity for tremendous displays of sportsmanship that transcend every other level of the game, whether it's your town's opening day this month or the pinnacle of the youth game.

During the 2017 LLBWS, the Caribbean Region and the Latin America Region were locked in a close game, with the Caribbean representatives from the Dominican Republic holding a 2-1 lead. With runners on first and second base and one out in the bottom of the sixth, weather halted the game.

Pitching for the Dominican Republic was 4-foot-8, 85-pound Edward "Sopita" Uceta. In his first LLBWS appearance on the mound, Sopita -- which translated means "Little Soup" -- had not given up a run and struck out four batters. He had a 2-1 count on Venezuela's Omar Romero when the game was put on hold.

Romero remained ready to hit during the lengthy break and sent the second pitch from Uceta over the right fielder's head for a game-winning, two-run triple. The Latin America dugout exploded out onto the field in celebration as the team mobbed Romero at third base.

Tweet from @LittleLeague: He may have been the smallest player at the 2017 #LLWS, but Omar Romero was Latin America's spark plug: https://t.co/7GjFvJChVb #ThisIsLittleLeague pic.twitter.com/MSTDlWke3F

As Romero rose, Uceta fell. He laid flat on his stomach, face in his palms just in front of the mound as he sobbed over giving up the game-winning hit.

"I felt bad because I wanted that win for the Dominican, and I wanted to go all the way in this tournament," Uceta said through interpreter Antonio Gonzalez. "Edward is the engine of the team," Caribbean Region Manager Jose Cordero said through Gonzalez. "I don't want to talk about 'Sopita' because I might start crying [as well]."

What happened next at Volunteer Stadium epitomizes Little League and the bond of friendship and respect between two teams. Coaches and players from the Latin America team halted their jubilation to console Uceta.

"Edward has a big heart," said Latin America manager Alex Ballesteros. "It could have been the opposite way, and I know that we would have been feeling the same way. I just told him that I was very proud of him."

"That made me feel good when they showed good sportsmanship," said Uceta. "Some teams will want to push you down when they beat you, so it felt really good that they were supporting me."

Latin America advanced to the next game, but was eliminated from the tournament by Mexico. Who was sitting behind home plate in support of the Latin America team? "Sopita" of course.

"We are Latin; we are like brothers," Cordero said.

When the game against Mexico concluded, Uceta made his way down to the Latin America team's dugout to shake the hands of his Venezuelan "brothers," a fitting way to end their LLBWS experience.

This article originally appeared in the 2018 Little League Magazine.