DISTRICT 8 SCHEDULE (1st game only)

10-12 baseball (Field 1)

Grants Pass National vs Illinois Valley, Saturday, 11 a.m.,

Central Point vs Grants Pass American, Saturday, 2 p.m.,

Medford vs Brookings, Saturday, 5 p.m.

Del Norte vs Grants Pass National-Illinois Valley winner, Sunday 11 a.m.

— All teams will play on Sunday

9-11 baseball (Field 2)

Grants Pass American vs Gold Valley, Saturday, 4 p.m.

— Game two Sunday at 4 p.m.

8-10 baseball (Field 2)

Del Norte vs Brookings,
Saturday, 10 a.m.

Grants Pass National vs Medford, Saturday, 1 p.m.

— Winners play at 1 p.m. Sunday, losers play 10 a.m. Sunday

For the first time since moving from California Little League to Oregon’s District 8 — and possibly for the first time ever — the Del Norte Little League will host its district tournament at Pykes Field in Crescent City this week, starting today.

“It is exciting. It has been a lot of preparation, but it is coming together pretty well,” said Del Norte Little League president Cris Rice, who is also the head coach of the Del Norte 10-12 Baseball All Stars. “We have a lot of help with all 16 board members kicking in and we have lots of volunteers from field crews, umpires, scorekeepers, and people chipping in to do it. I think there are going to be a lot of people interested in coming and watching.”

The Oregon District 8 Little League Tournament will bring a total of 13 baseball teams from Grants Pass, Medford, Central Point, Cave Junction and Brookings to Crescent City to compete in three different age groups.

“I think it is going to be kind of like a Jaycees Tournament kind of stimulus to the community,” Rice said, referring to the annual Crescent City Jaycees eighth grade boys basketball tournament that has been held in Del Norte for the last 50 years. “Obviously it is not as big with them having 40 teams and there are only going to be 13 teams at this tournament, but the baseball teams are a little bit bigger, and there are only two local teams compared to the Jaycees Tournament which has a lot of local teams. So I think it will have a similar impact — maybe not quite as big — but I think hotels will fill up, restaurants are going to get a lot of business out of it, and it will be a nice vacation for the people from the valley.”

Although there will be lots of visiting teams in Crescent City throughout the week, Del Norte has put together four all star teams of its own with 8-10, and 10-12 year old all star baseball teams, and 8-10 and 9-11 year old all star softball squads.

Only the baseball teams will have the chance to compete in the District 8 tournament this year, but the Del Norte teams are excited to get to compete once again at Pykes Field.

“It’s huge for us. We get to sleep in our own bed, we don’t have to sleep in a hotel room,” said Del Norte 8-10 Baseball All Star head coach Maldo Salcedo. “Last year when we played in Medford it was in the 90s, so we will be more acclimated to the weather here. It will be good for the kids to be able to stay home and eat home cooked food. It should be an advantage for us.”

Del Norte Little League is coming off of arguably its most successful postseason last year, when the Del Norte 8-10 Baseball All Stars and the 10-12 Baseball All Stars won their respective District 8 brackets in Medford to advance to the Oregon State Tournament. The baseball teams were joined in reaching the state tournament by the Del Norte 8-10 Softball All Star team, which automatically advanced through District 8 without any challengers.

Like last year, Del Norte Little League was the only league to put together any softball all star teams for the postseason. Coaches said both the Del Norte softball teams are expecting to attend the District 8 Tournament in uniform anyway, where they will be helping sell shirts and candy, along with other odd jobs to make sure the tournament runs smoothly.

“I’m going to give the girls next week off. Hopefully that will refresh them,” said Del Norte 9-11 Softball All Star coach Beau Smith. “They will be there supporting the boys — selling T-shirts and doing what they can do. The boys side of the program has supported us too. Cris Rice, our league president, really stepped up. He is the reason that we are getting what we are getting. He has made this a very successful year. All the board members, really, have just done so much.”

Coaches around the league are reporting that the local little league softball teams have taken a huge jump in level of play from last season to this season, and that is reflected in this year’s all star teams.

“Little League softball is on the rise. That is just because of an effort of all the parents and the community. We have ball players,” said Del Norte 8-10 Softball All Star head coach Allen Bommelyn. “I just want to give a shout out to the little league board for making softball a priority. They took extra steps this year to get softball to where it is right now.”

Although Del Norte Little League did have a softball all star team last season, Smith said coaches had to go out and recruit players to join after the regular season in order to field an 11-player squad. This season, the softball players had to try out for the team — just like the boys do for all star baseball — and a total of 43 girls turned out, allowing Del Norte to form two full teams.

Once again, Del Norte’s softball all star teams will kick off their postseason at their respective Oregon State Tournaments.

Del Norte 10-12 Baseball

In 2016, Del Norte Little League picked up its first ever Oregon District 8 baseball championship when the 8-10 Del Norte Baseball All Stars outscored its opponents by a combined 48-1 throughout the tournament to punch its ticket to state.

Last season the players from that first district title were split between Del Norte 8-10 and 10-12 all star teams and both squads went on to win district titles and return to state, but this year the vast majority of that 2016 team is back together playing in the 10-12 division.

“There are a few of the kids that are in the unique situation where they could go to state three years in a row,”” Rice said. “We only have three first-time players, a few second-year players, and then the rest of them are third year players.”

Rice said the players on his team are already very familiar with one another after playing All Stars together in the past, as well as playing on a CC Warrior AAU baseball team that has traveled to several tournaments over the last couple years.

In fact, the All Stars already got a little bit of game action together this summer when Rice took the team to Medford last weekend to compete under the CC Warrior team name. Rice said the team ended up 2-2 at the tournament, losing 4-1 and 8-7 on Saturday before bouncing back for a 15-0 win, and a 10-1 win over a team that beat them the previous day.

“It was enjoyable, and it helped us work some kinks out. Obviously it isn’t affiliated with Little League, but for us to be able to gel and compete as a group that hasn’t played together helped,” Rice said. “It has shown us some things that we need to work on in practice, and it opened our eyes to some of the kids that maybe earned a little more time, and some that were going to play a lot maybe took a step back. I think it kind of put everybody on point where every practice, every game, and every time they are with us it is a try out. There is no entitlement.”

Rice said he is especially excited about the 10-12 team’s pitching staff this season, along with a group he expects to be able to put a lot of runs on the board.

“I think we are going to be really stellar at pitching, and I think we have kids that can hit the snot out of the ball,” he said.

The key to capturing another District 8 title will be for those pitchers to maintain their focus and allow they skills to shine.

“Our pitchers need to keep calm and understand how good that they are, that they can pitch, and just persevering through the pitching aspect,” Rice said. “It will also be important for us to put the bat on the ball, and I think defensively we are going to be fine.”

Del Norte has a first-round bye in the District 8 Tournament, so they will kick off play on Sunday at 11 a.m. against the winner of today’s game between Grants Pass National and Illinois Valley.

Del Norte 8-10 Baseball

Although the Del Norte 8-10 Baseball All Star team is the two-time defending District 8 champion in their division, most of the players on this year’s squad are brand new to all star baseball.

“It is a pretty new group,” Salcedo said. “Most of them are first-time all stars. It is like starting a whole new season just trying to get these kids to mesh and play together. Most of them were on seperate teams during the season.”

Although the faces will be new, Salcedo said the team still has the same goals as ever.

“The main goal is to win districts, but other than that we just want to play well,” he said. “Most importantly we want to hit the ball and play solid defense, and hopefully we come out on top.”

Salcedo said his squad has three players returning from last year, which will provide the team with strength and experience in the infield and on the pitching mound. While there is plenty of talent filling out the roster, the 8-10 Del Norte All Stars have been focused on coming together as a team quickly before Districts.

“First we are finding out where we want to position them,” Salcedo said. “We have seen all year where they have played, but we are trying to get them to play the way we want them to play. Getting them to gel and play together is the most important thing, because they have all been coached differently. So to get them all to think the same way in seven days is tough.”

Although the team has had lots to do at the practices they have held almost every day since the end of the regular season last Thursday, Salcedo said the team chemistry is already starting to form.

“This is a really good group of kids. The other coaches and I are having a really fun time coaching these kids, especially into districts,” he said. “For the most part they are relaxed and they are just enjoying the opportunity. They are loose, having fun and joking around which you like to see.”

Salcedo said the biggest key to success for Del Norte will be how consistently its pitchers are able to throw strikes.

“We want out pitchers to pitch accurately,” Salcedo said. “I’m not really too worried about velocity, I’m more worried about accuracy. If we can keep the pitch count down I think we will be alright.”

Del Norte will play the first game of the day today at Pykes Field, taking on Brookings at 10 a.m.

Del Norte 9-11 Softball

The Del Norte High School softball just wrapped up one of the most successful two-year runs in the program’s history this spring, but Smith sees a lot of talent on this 9-11 All Star Softball team that will hopefully help the Warrior varsity keep rolling in the coming years.

“I think these are the girls that you are going to see in high school playing together, then you have the (8-10 softball all stars) that will be right behind them,” Smith said.

This year’s 9-11 All Stars are mostly made up of last year’s 8-10 team that competed in the Oregon State Tournament in 2017. For the second year in a row, Del Norte doesn’t have any competition in their district, so they will move on to the Oregon State Tournament as the de facto District 8 champs.

Last year Del Norte went 0-2 at the state tournament, where they played their first games together as a team. While they are going straight to state once again, Smith believes his squad will be better suited for the tournament this year because of the experience.

“It was tough not having any games before hand. I think these girls have something to prove this year,” Smith said. “They know each other and they are all friends. They are in the same grade and the same schools, and in our small community it is kind of hard not to know everybody.”

Like the Del Norte High School team, Smith sees his all stars squad as a defensive group.

“Our pitching and our fielding will be our strength,” he said. “We have some sluggers and some good hitters too, but I think our defense will be our biggest strength with our fielders backing up our pitchers.”

Without any district competition Del Norte’s all star softball practices have been a little less urgent than their baseball counterparts, with over a month between the end of the Little League season and the start of the Oregon State Tournament. Smith said he plans to use that time to really work on the team’s tools.

“We have some potential big hitters here, so we are going to focus a lot on our hitting,” Smith said. “Defensively I’m going to focus on getting the girls to be able to play any position on the field — and the group that I have here can. They can play anywhere, we just want them to be good at playing anywhere.”

Del Norte 8-10 Softball

Like the 9-11 Del Norte All Stars, the 8-10 softball team is already the Oregon District 8 champion by default as the only league that entered an all star team this year.

With both a 9-11 team and an 8-10 team, Del Norte has several players that would be eligible to play on both squads. Smith said coaches for the 9-11 team had Bommelyn take the 9-year olds of his choosing while the 10 and 11 year olds formed the older team.

“There isn’t one girl on this team that has played all stars before,” Bommelyn said. “So It will be good for them to have another month to play, and to get the experience of playing with kids from other areas. Hopefully they start to develop some leadership for next year and keep softball going strong here.”

Although there are not any 10 year old all stars on the 8-10 team Bommelyn said his squad is split with six players that played major softball this year and six players that competed in minor softball. The rules between the two leagues are different during the season, but at the Oregon State Tournament the rules open up and will look most similar to the major games.

“It will be a big shot in the are to have the major girls that were able to work on their base running and sliding,” Bommelyn said. “We will try to get bunting introduced to them. It’s tournament play, so on passed balls on the bases they can run.”

Bommelyn said his squad looks to be a pretty well rounded crew this year with no obvious weaknesses in the field or at the plate. The 8-10 coach has also been impressed with the team’s attitude so far.

“These girls just want to play. There are excited to play the game,” he said. “They are all ball players, and they want to bat, they want to run, and they want to throw.”