Local squads preparing for tournaments
The Del Norte Little League Boys 9/10 All-Stars, coached by Richie Goudelock, are figuratively first up to bat.
Eric Gardner makes a throw to third during practice with the Del Norte Boys 10/11 All-Stars Tuesday. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
Del Norte’s five Little League All-Star squads have been practicing all this week (and, for those with available players, some of last week) in preparation for their respective tournaments. Goudelock’s 9/10 All-Stars team begins tournament play Saturday in Blue Lake; the tournament continues through Thursday, June 28. (Each All-Star tournament operates under a double-elimination format.)
So, Coach, any idea who’s going to be in your lineup?
“I have no idea yet,” Goudelock admitted. “We’ll start with the best nine bats on the field. A lot of kids are capable of starting. You’ve got to be the best at your position.”
Little League baseball is a close-knit community. Coaches are familiar with the kids they select to All-Star rosters, and the kids congeal with their peers — many their friends — quickly.
As good as the players are individually, maximizing collective potential is the hard part. That, of course, falls on the coaches making decisions.
“I told the kids I’ve seen all of them play,” said Byron Gardner, head coach of the Del Norte Boys 10/11 All Stars. “They’re going to have to make my mind up on the practice field.”
Kids inevitably have favorite and least favorite positions to play. They can certainly appeal to coaches, but with eight defensive spots and a pitcher, decisions must be made.
“They’re All-Stars,” said Travis Stover, assistant coach for the Del Norte Girls 11/12 All-Stars. “Pretty much everybody on the team (played in) the infield. Some of them are going to have to make sacrifices and play a position they’re not used to.”
Little League rules regulating playing time and pitch counts also apply. Coaches are challenged to think of the rosters in the long term and the short term. Pitching depth, in particular, demands the coaches’ attention.
“Everybody’s got to be able to throw strikes,” said Dan Bassett, head coach of the Del Norte Boys 11/12 All-Stars. “I’ve got 11 kids (on my roster) and I feel pretty confident in 10 of them pitching.”
Another emphasis for Bassett and other coaches is on-field communication: Verbal and nonverbal cues instructing baserunners, batters and defenders in the field of play.
“Our (Majors team) kids have known our terminology since March,” Bassett said. “(The others) have picked up on the terminology very well.”
For some teams, even the rules of the game change for the All-Star season.
The Del Norte Girls 9/10 All-Stars, coached by Mark Horner, play with a smaller ball and a closer pitcher’s rubber than Horner’s players — most of whom play at the Majors level — are accustomed to.
“Once we get the flow going, we should be able to pitch harder, pitch faster,” Horner said.
The girls 9/10 All-Stars tournament takes place June 29–July 5 in McKinleyville. The 11/12 boys and 11/12 girls are both headed to Fortuna for their respective tournaments, both from June 29–July 5, and the 10/11 boys’ tournament runs from June 30–July 5 in Arcata.
The 9/10 boys are Del Norte’s first chance of five at a possible California District 26 title, beginning at 12:30 p.m. against Klamath/Trinity Little League of Hoopa. Del Norte has to win four games over the six days to claim the championship.
“You can’t prep for day three or day four if you can’t get game one out of the way,” Goudelock said, recalling a previous All-Star tournament in which he saved his best pitcher for a second game but lost the first game. “I’ve learned my lesson.”
DNLL teams’ results in Tournament of Champions
Del Norte Little League teams combined to win three games in Tournament of Champions play, a set of single-elimination tournaments to decide the District 26 outright champion for each level. Tournaments were held from Wednesday, June 13, to Saturday, June 16.
In baseball, the league-champion Del Norte Majors Giants defeated Arcata, 9-8, in the first game before falling to the Redwood Empire (Eureka) Little League Angels, 14-1. Ryan Janeiro went 3 for 4 with three triples and four RBI in the first game, also scoring the game-winning run. Cole Harper had three hits over the two games, including a home run in the second game.
The Del Norte Majors Athletics fell to their opponents from Eel River Little League, 9-6, in their only game. Zach Gabel had three singles for the Athletics, and Trent Bruschi added a single and a double.
In softball, the league-champion Del Norte Majors Giants and runner-up Del Norte Majors Yankees each won one game and lost one at the Majors Tournament of Champions, held in Eureka.
The Giants defeated the Redwood Empire (Eureka) Little League Phillies in their first game, 11-8, as Josey Carlson homered, tripled, and singled. The Giants lost their second game to McKinleyville Little League, 8-4, despite a two-run home run from Brook Nolan.
The Yankees defeated the Redwood Empire Yankees in their first game, 5-4, before falling to the Redwood Empire Braves in the second game, 15-5. Keliya Sanchez, Tvshiina Jacobs and Caitlyn Herrera each had multiple hits for the Yankees.
The Del Norte Senior Angels lost in the first round of their tournament to a team from Redwood Empire Little League.