Jim Willis and the District 3/Cumberland County All-Stars have become regulars in Easley, S.C., this time of year.
Easley, which is located in the northwest corner of the state and is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, is the site of Little League Baseball's Big League World Series for players ages 16-18.
District 3 is representing the East in the tournament for the fourth straight season after winning state and regional titles again.
"It's an unbelievable two weeks," said Willis, who manages the team along with Carlos Negron and Mark Stratoti. "Win or lose, it's a great two weeks and a great honor to be here."
The East team lost 3-2 in its opener Wednesday to West and again by the same score to Central on Thursday. The District 3/Cumberland County All-Stars beat Southwest 7-2 on Friday and will close pool play Monday against Southeast at 4 p.m.
Little League Baseball flies regional champs into Easley for the tournament and provides room and board.
Teams also are given uniforms, some equipment and a few keepsakes while in town.
"It's awesome to see their faces," Willis said. "They come down and they see the field that looks like a major-league field. … It's just amazing.
"It's an amazing journey, and I'm happy for these kids and their parents."
Millville High School graduate Aaron Cox is playing in the World Series for the third straight year. The hard-throwing righty started Wednesday's opener and likely will take the ball again for Monday's game.
"It's great coming down here," Cox said by telephone. "I have a great time every year. They treat you well from the moment you get off the plane until the moment you leave."
Cox now stars at Gannon University and is happy to represent baseball on the East Coast.
"We get overlooked a bit," Cox said. "But coming down here four or five years in a row is definitely going to put us on the map."
District 3 is an all-star team from all over Cumberland County and parts of Salem County.
"This is a great opportunity," Anthony Lopez said. "We are kind of treated like celebrities down here so it's pretty fun."
Lopez, a Buena Regional graduate, is enjoying his second trip to the World Series. He had a standout season at Cumberland County College this spring and has started to garner attention from pro scouts.
Lopez said one of his favorite parts of the World Series is the level of competition.
"It's a high level of baseball," said Lopez, who doubled in the team's win Friday. "There aren't any teams here that are bad or they wouldn't be here."
With two losses, District 3 likely will need to win Monday and get some help to advance out of pool play and into the elimination rounds.
Lopez said things were a little different for him going a second time.
He didn't sound interested in simply seeing the sights.
"We want to have a good experience," Lopez said. "But at the same time we want to win it all."
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