- Associated Press - Thursday, August 14, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A Little League team from Cumberland is preparing for its first game of the 2014 World Series, after an early elimination from the tournament three years ago.

Cumberland American plays its opening game Friday night against a team from Pearland, Texas. The Rhode Island squad had practices Thursday and took part in the opening ceremony in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Sixteen teams are competing for the title, including eight from the U.S. and eight from other countries.

Cumberland won the New England championship and a berth in the World Series by defeating a team from Fairfield, Connecticut, on Saturday, 10-6.

“I watched that game, pitch by pitch,” said Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee, who played baseball in high school. “I think they’ll hit with anybody. They’ve got some really good hitting.”

Cumberland American earned a spot in the World Series in 2011 but lost its first two games, and ultimately went 1-2. Manager Dave Belisle, who also managed the team then, said this year’s squad can compete with anyone.

“I think last time we were in awe and I think we were a little bit intimidated,” he told WJAR-TV. “So mentally we’re going to try to get them a little stronger than we were the last time.”

Players have described a once-in-a lifetime experience.

“It’s been a dream - the coolest thing ever,” pitcher Sean Meers told the station. “It’s what all of us have been wanting to do since we were little kids, and finally it’s coming true on a big stage over there.”

Meers and the team got a good luck tweet from New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski before Saturday night’s game.

McKee said he plans to watch Friday.

“I think it will be on every TV in every restaurant and every bar in town and every home in town,” he said. “They’re certainly the most popular people from Cumberland right now.”

This year’s World Series will feature a female player for just the 17th time in 68 years. Pitcher Mo’Ne Davis led her Philadelphia team to the tournament by throwing a three-hitter Sunday to win the Mid-Atlantic championship.

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