A team from Uganda is set to become the first African representative in the Little League World Series.
Lugazi Little League from Lugazi, Uganda, won the Middle East and Africa regional Monday, 5-2 over Kuwait City LL from Kuwait. The 5-team, 4-day tournament was held in Kutno, Poland.
Little League in Uganda is relatively new with the first local leagues chartering in 2005.
The next step for the Uganda team is to return to Uganda and begin the process of applying through the U.S. Embassy in Kampala for visas to enter the United States. International LLWS teams generally do not apply for visas until winning their regional titles.
The Little League World Series runs Aug. 16-26 at Lamade and Volunteer Stadiums and is a modified double-elimination format with 8 teams in both the United States and International divisions.
Lugazi is located in the southeastern area of the landlocked country, about 31 miles east of the capital city of Kampala. The Lugazi LL is one of five chartered ones in Uganda, with four Little League Major Baseball Division teams, and four Junior League Baseball Division teams. Little League said there are more than 700 boys and girls playing Little League in Uganda.
In 2011, a different local Ugandan team, from Kampala, defeated perennial MEA power Dhahran, Saudi Arabia for the MEA title. However, irregularities in the team's birth and residence documents led to the U.S. State Department denying entry visas for the team and Little League awarding the Saudi Arabian team the LLWS berth.
Little League said it met with State Department officials in the past year to avoid a repeat of 2011, working so all players and coaches would have necessary paperwork before the Ugandan team left for Poland.
Little League tournament director Patrick Wilson said Little League was grateful to the State Department for its assistance over the past year.
"As a result, we are now cautiously optimistic that the Uganda team will be joining us next month," Wilson said in a statement.
Little League said it pays all travel, food, and lodging expenses for all players and coaches for World Series play in all 8 divisions. It said the Uganda team is expected to arrive in the United States in the week leading up to the Series.
Lugazi went 3-1 in MEA?pool play and earned the top seed and bye into the title game per tiebreaking rules. Kuwait reached the title game by winning the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Uganda's lone loss was to Saudi Arabia and it allowed 5 runs in its 5 tournament games.
The Ugandans' first game would be Friday, Aug. 17 vs. Latin American champion Aguadulce Cabezera LL from Aguadulce, Panama.
Other qualifiers are Kitasuna LL from Tokyo (Japan), Kuei-Shen LL from Taoyuan County, Taiwan (Asia-Pacific), and Pariba LL from Willemstad, Curacao (Caribbean).
The next berth expected to be decided is the Mexican region by July 27.
The U.S. championships run Aug. 9-12 on ESPN channels.
New England Sports Network will televise four New England region pool play games, and the Longhorn Network will televise all Southwestern Region games Aug. 3-6.
The Longhorn Network, a partnership between ESPN?and the University of Texas, had planned to show high school football games last year but did not because the NCAA said it possibly involved prospects. The NCAA?approved the LHN to televise Little League games because it does not consider the 11-12 year-old baseball players as prospects.