Billings Little League team goes to Little League World Series

Billings Little League team goes to Little League World Series

From the The top Billings-area stories of the 2010s series
Big Sky All-Stars

The Big Sky Little League team celebrates after Ben Askelson hit a solo home run to give the team a 1-0 victory over the West regional team from California in South Williamsport, Pa. on Wednesday, August 24, 2011.

2011 was a year of big stories in Montana. The biggest buzz around Billings, though, was about Little League.

After beating Bend South Little League of Bend, Oregon, in the Northwest Regional championship in San Bernardino, California, the Big Sky All-Stars became the first Montana team ever to earn a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The trip to Little League's top tournament brought community pride to Billings and gave sports fans across Montana something to cheer for.

The team, which represented the Northwest Region, opened the tournament against a team from Rapid City, South Dakota, winning 6-4.

Next up was Lafayette, Louisiana, which the Montana team bested 3-1 in a U.S. quarterfinal game. Fans began gathering in venues around Billings to watch the local Little League team play.

The team moved on to face Huntington Beach, California, in the semifinals. A walk-off home run by Ben Askelson gave the Montana team a 1-0 victory over the California team, setting up a U.S. championship appearance. Sportscaster Brent Musburger, who grew up in Billings and whose father Cec Musburger brought Little League baseball to Billings in the 1950s, called the game for ESPN.

By then, the team had gained support from across the state, and from Montana's congressional delegation.

Two days after defeating the California team, Montana was paired with the same Ocean View All-Stars in the U.S. championship. California beat a team from Pennsylvania to advance.

The Big Sky All-Stars entered the game as the only remaining undefeated U.S. team in the double-elimination tournament.

California got off to an early start, and continued building on their lead. Montana's Little League World Series run ended with an 11-2 loss. Teams with no prior losses who lose in the U.S. and International championship games are eliminated without a tiebreaker.

Upon their return to Montana, the Big Sky All-Stars were celebrated by fans at their respective schools, around Billings and even at a University of Montana football game.

Several of the 2011 Big Sky All-Stars players went on to find success in baseball and other sports. The last of the players to play baseball in Billings was Dawson Smith, who graduated from Billings Senior High in 2018 and played his final season with the Billings Royals American Legion team that summer.


Photos: Big Sky All-Stars at the 2011 Little League World Series

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