The next step for West Side is the state tournament, which will be held July 16-23 in Elyria. West Side won the Ohio championship for the 10th time in 12 years last season.
“We won the 11-year-old state title last year,” Nichting said, “so I would think that would make us the favorite, but teams that I know are pretty good are Boardman and New Albany, and North Canton wasn’t bad last year. I think there’s going to be pretty good competition up there.”
Nichting coached the 11-year-old team last year because his grandson Timmy Saurber, his daughter Natalie’s son, was on the roster, and that’s why he’s coaching the 12-year-old team this season.
Timmy grew up hearing about West Side’s success, and that’s true for many of the players. Last year, West Side reached the Little League World Series and made it to the final game before losing 5-2 to Taylor North, the Michigan champion. It was the first Ohio team to play for the Little League championship game. Kenny Coomer coached the team last year and now assists Nichting.
“I think all my kids understand a little bit about the deep history with West Side,” Nichting said. “With Kenny doing what he did last year, I kind of think it really refreshes (their memories).”
If West Side wins the Ohio championship, it will advance to the Great Lakes Regional, which will be played Aug. 6-10 in Whitestown, Ind. The regional champion will play in the 75th annual Little League World Series from Aug. 17-28 in Williamsport, Pa.
About half of this year’s roster went to the Little League World Series last year, Nichting said.
“We practiced with that team and we even scrimmaged against them,” he said. “It’s a little community. They’re all together on this.”