In a perfect scenario, the players, coaches, family and friends of the Warren County South 11- and 12-year-old all-stars would be taking in the sights and sounds of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

It’s a hard place to reach in any year, with thousands of teams vying nationwide – and in most cases, worldwide – for the opportunity to suit up and play for the championship.

Warren County South, the Kentucky state champions after winning the title here in Bowling Green at Ephram White Park last month, positioned itself to join that rare company in Pennsylvania by reaching the Great Lakes Regional in Whitestown, Ind.

The all-stars, led by manager Cary Page, put on a clinic in slugging throughout its impressive postseason run to Indiana. In the Great Lakes Regional opener against Hamilton (Ohio) West Side, WC South’s bats went cold. Despite falling behind 1-0 and managing just two hits, the WC South all-stars rallied for a pair of runs to open the tournament with a 2-1 win.

The offense stayed cold the following day, when another two-hit outing cost WC South in a 5-1 loss to Hinsdale (Ill.) that had the team on the brink of elimination.

WC South then woke up in a big way, posting a nine-run rally en route to a 10-0 win over Elmbrook (Wis.) that showed once more what the team is all about – great hitting, great pitching, great defense.

That set up a rematch with the Ohio state champions, and a confident WC South went to the field for batting practice Aug. 11 before getting ready to play that afternoon.

And then it was over – Page got a call in his hotel room from an official at Little League International informing him that the team had a positive COVID-19 test. By rule, WC South had to forfeit, and just like that the season that had such promise came to a sudden and disappointing conclusion.

“We knew the rules coming into it,” Page told the Daily News. “As coaches we discussed it multiple times, saying the biggest (opponent) that we’re going to fight is COVID. We were confident with baseball and still very confident the next two days were going to be our day. We really liked where we were at. But like I said, we knew the rules going into it and unfortunately it got us.”

The WC South all-stars – Justin Capps, Mason Cosby, Dylan Fair, Joseph Fentress, Dylan Marr, Ryley Oller, Zac Owsley, Camden Page, Lukas Peterson, Sonny Price, Bryant Rogers, Noah Rowland, James Yarbrough and Ethan York – aren’t alone in losing experiences that can’t be replaced. The coronavirus pandemic has forced cancellations in athletics and activities, school and everyday life for more than a year now.

But this group of boys – who barely got to play last summer and never had the chance to advance past the state tournament – deserved a better ending.

They worked hard to achieve a dream and can rightfully consider themselves champions.

As it turned out, the WC South all-stars did accomplish something few other teams can – they ended their seasons as winners, and that’s something else to celebrate.

After receiving the terrible news that the tournament was over for his team, Page was already planning for a day soon when his team could reunite with family and friends one more time.

“We’re definitely going to get together,” Page said. “We’ve got to celebrate these kids. It’s really tough.”

We offer our condolences, but more importantly our congratulations to the Warren County South all-stars, plus the WC South 8- to 10-year-old all-stars for their state championship as well.

It was a great summer of youth baseball, one we sincerely wish had lasted at least one more day.

“Our Opinion” pieces in the Bowling Green Daily News exclusively represent the majority opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints or beliefs of any other Daily News employees.

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