Before kicking off at the 9–11 Oregon Little League State Tournament in Medford on Friday, Del Norte All Stars assistant coach Tim Nolan approached each player individually.
“Do you trust me?” Nolan would ask.
Each player responded in turn.
“I told them, ‘I trust you too. If you trust me, and I trust you then if we all work together we are going to win,’” Nolan said.
That is exactly what they did, in dominating fashion no less, as the Del Norte All Stars ran roughshod over District 1 champion Beaumont 12-2 in four innings in a game shortened by the 10-run rule.
“Their teamwork was great,” said Del Norte head coach Beau Smith. “Every one of our players contributed to that win with bunts, fielding, hitting, our aggressive base running — just everything.”
Though Smith said he thought defense and pitching would be this team’s strength before the start of the tournament, the Del Norte 9–11 All Star softball team proved it has some prowess at the plate as well in their first game together as a team.
The Warriors were able to score with small ball and power, including three home runs in the first round game.
Ava O’Reilly, Maddison Calleja and Chaney Pease all hit home runs throughout the course of the game.
While the game eventually turned into a rout, Smith said Del Norte didn’t have any particularly huge inning. The Warriors were just able to push runs across the plate with every at bat.
Del Norte took a 1-0 lead over Beaumont after the first inning, tacking on two more runs in the second inning and three in the third. Suddenly the Warriors found themselves with a 6-0 lead.
“After that we opened up our batting and let the girls swing away,” Smith said.
While the offense was rolling, the defense was just as good — showing why Smith has such confidence in the team defensively.
“We played excellent defense, and our pitching was outstanding,” Smith said.
Del Norte also shut down Beaumont’s running game on Friday.
Smith said Khloe Smith was able to gun down a Beaumont baserunner in the first inning. The District 1 champions were so impressed with the throw that they didn’t attempt a straight steal for the rest of the game.
In all, the game went about as well as Del Norte’s coaches could have hoped for.
“Del Norte came over here and showed everyone that we mean business — for sure,” Nolan said.
“You have to remember, we are the outcasts out here, because we are the only team from California,” Smith added. “They are gunning for us right away.”
With the win, Del Norte advances to the quarterfinals of the double elimination tournament. The Warriors will be back on the diamond at U.S. Cellular Community Park at 9:10 a.m. today, taking on District 6 champion Lakeview Little League.
Lakeview automatically moved on to the second round of the state tournament with a bye in the first round.
Although the Del Norte All Stars are off to a hot start, coaches want to make sure that the team is able to maintain focus as the tournament progresses.
“We are going to tell them not to get comfortable — play every at bat and every batter like you are behind,” Nolan said. “As long as we do that, I think we will be alright.”
If Del Norte can beat Lakeview today it will move on to the semifinals on Sunday at 9:10 a.m. If Lakeview wins Del Norte would play again Saturday at 5:10 p.m. in the bottom of the double elimination bracket.
Hanging tough in Medford’s high heat
Conditions in Medford for Friday’s games were significantly different from what Del Norters experience on the coast, with a high of 90 degrees.
Making matters worse, wildfires in the Northwest are sending smoke towards Medford. Although the Del Norte All Stars were able to finish their game, the late games had to be postponed on Friday due to poor air quality.
The Del Norte 9–11 All Stars were anticipating the jump in temperature, however, and did everything that they could to get the girls ready to play a softball game inland.
“In the last week of practice we spent three days doing conditioning. We were doing kind of a CrossFit conditioning,” Smith said. “We tried to prepare the girls for what they were going to be experiencing. Tim took our pitchers and our catchers up to Gasquet to see how their arms reacted in the heat and to see how my catcher was going to do in the heat. These girls mean business. They have Warrior pride.”
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t anticipate the smoke,” Nolan added.
Even so, Del Norte proved it was able to overcome the conditions and secure the win.
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com .