PITTSFIELD -- Saturday's official announcement of the 2014 Babe Ruth Softball 16-Under World Series coming to Pittsfield assured the Berkshire Force, as the host team, of a spot in the 20-team field.
They can still win a regional championship and earn a slot, but they don't have to. They're in.
Don't expect the Force to get complacent, though.
"That won't happen," Force coach Jim Clary said Saturday. "I guarantee that won't happen."
A number of the 2013 World Series-qualifying Force players, as well as their coaching staff, were on hand at the Doyle Complex to celebrate the announcement of Pittsfield as the World Series host city. To the right of the podium, next year's championship trophy sat on a table.
That trophy will, as Babe Ruth League National Commissioner Rob Connor said, be "on tour throughout Berkshire County and Pittsfield" until the winner takes it home.
Of course, the Force players and staff would like to make sure the trophy never leaves the county.
"We are a very competitive program," Force assistant and Western Mass. Babe Ruth state commissioner Jim Stimpson said. "We're on the map. They know we're going to give them a game. We are on the cusp of a national championship."
There's a big difference, though, between being on the cusp of a championship and actually winning it. As a member of this summer's World Series-qualifying team, Allie Hunt knows it better than most. She's one of seven Force players age-eligible to return to the 2014 squad.
Hunt was on hand Saturday, and said the 2014 World Series will be no different than the 2013 tournament: a fight to the finish.
"I feel like the returnees hold a certain experience that none of the others do ... so they can help get the next team ready," Hunt said.
Hunt's roster spot, though, isn't assured. No one's spot is. Everything is still based, Clary said, on performances in tryouts. Even the 2013 players have to earn their spot for the summer.
Clary will likely hold tryouts in late spring, just after the end of the high school softball season.
"I've been running a fall team, going to some tournaments -- with the understanding that any girl who plays on the fall team has no inside [position] on next year's tryouts," he said.
When the roster is set, the Force players will have home-field advantage and home cooking throughout the tournament, which runs from July 29-Aug. 5.
"Being able to go home is huge," said Kirsten McNeice, a player from the 2013 roster. "Their moms are able to feed them. We had pizza every night [in the hotel this summer]."