Oregon District 8 Tournament will be held at the Medford National Little League fields in Medford, Oregon this year and a total of six all star teams from Del Norte Little League have signed up to compete, with games scheduled to kick off today.

“I’m excited that we have six all star teams in little league this year,” said Del Norte Little League President Cris Rice, who is also coaching the Del Norte 10-12 Baseball All Stars. “It is a huge jump from having two baseball teams and no softball in some years. We have had as few as two all star teams and now we are up to six. So that says a lot about the board, the league and the parent volunteers.”

Del Norte has formed four all star baseball teams with a group in the 8-10 division, a group competing in the 10-12 division, along with a junior all star team and a senior all star team. Del Norte also has a pair of softball all star teams with an 8-10 group, and another competing in the 10-12 softball division.

“It is great for the community to have so many teams representing Del Norte, going over there and having a great shot at doing well,” said Del Norte 8-10 Softball All Star head coach John Horner.

The junior and senior baseball all stars are both the only such team signed up in Oregon District 8 this year, so they will both receive automatic byes to the next round — the Oregon Little League State Tournament.

The other four Del Norte all star teams also have a chance to qualify for state, though they will have to take first place in Medford over the next week in order to qualify. With so many local teams competing on overlapping days, coaches expect to see a lot of Del Norte blue and gold surrounding the fields during their district games.

“We are excited that we will all be playing in the same spot,” said Del Norte 10-12 Softball All Star head coach Meagan Curtis. “It is kind of fun because the boys are going and the younger girls are going. These girls are role models for the younger kids too, so we want to go set the standard for them.”

Softball 10-12 All Stars

After making a run all the way to the Oregon State Championship game as a 9-11 All Star team last summer, this year’s Del Norte 10-12 All Stars are comprised of largely the same players that ended up as the second best team in the state. Most of the players also competed on the 2017 Del Norte 8-10 All Star team that also qualified for the state tournament.

“This group is almost the same group, with a couple new faces, that we have had for the last two years,” Curtis said. “So this will be the third year that we are going at this. So it is a more experienced group. We have more developed players and lots of versatility. I basically have 13 great players that we are excited about being able to play. It’s a fun group too, because they all know each other. They have played with each other and against each other. We have the pitching staff, we have the catching staff, and we have kids that we can put all over the place. I think this is the best team in the last three years that we are going in with. So we are excited.”

Del Norte’s postseason run will start a little bit earlier this year than in either of their last two postseason runs, as two other all star teams have entered into the Oregon District 8 Tournament.

“This is the first year that we have had to play at the district level before going to state — the last two years we went straight to state. We are kind of looking forward to it because we will get to play a little bit before we go play at state, where there is a particular team that we want to beat,” Curtis said. “I think for these (girls) the first challenge is that we are going to be in the heat. The weather this week in practice has helped prepare us for that a little bit, but that is always an adjustment. There are also always some jitters playing in a game for the first time, even though we just finished our league here. So we are hoping to use the district tournament to get some of those jitters out, go get some confidence, and get some game experience together.”

The Del Norte 10-12 All Stars will kick off the double elimination tournament on Sunday at 4 p.m. against Illinois Valley. The winner of Sunday’s game will advance to take on Gold Valley on Monday at noon. The loser of the first game will then take on the loser of the second game at 3 p.m. for a spot in Tuesday’s District 8 Championship, which will be played at 3 p.m.

Baseball 10-12 All Stars

The Del Norte 10-12 All Star team has advanced to the Oregon Little League State Tournament twice in its history, but both appearances have occurred in the last two years.

This years group of all stars includes just three players from last year’s team, which made a run all the way to the Oregon State Championship game before taking second place in the state. Much of the roster is the same as the 2017 8-10 All Stars, who not only won their District 8 Tournament that year, but went on to capture Del Norte Little League baseball’s first ever win at the Oregon State Tournament. Since then Rice said this group has only improved.

“We are a lot better than we were two years ago when we were 10,” Rice said. “A lot of these kids have played in other outside baseball experiences whether it be with Medford teams or Humboldt teams. We have kids that are actually playing AAU baseball now whereas before none of the Del Norte kids really played travel baseball.”

Rice said he believes that this group will be particularly difficult to score against, but they may find themselves in a lot of close, low-scoring games.

“What really stands out to me is our pitching — we have phenomenal pitchers,” Rice said. “In years past with all star teams we would have three or four pretty solid pitchers and then it kind of falls off a little bit. This year we have six to seven kids that could see the mound in the tournament. I think every kid on our team pitched during the major season. Our defense is pretty good too. We just really have to get better at hitting. We will probably be in a lot of low scoring games with our defense and our pitching, we will just have to hit the ball. Hitting against all star caliber pitching is going to be a challenge for us, so hopefully we are up to that challenge.”

Del Norte’s quests for three straight state tournament births starts on Sunday at 3 p.m. The Warriors will take on the winner of today’s game between Brookings and Grants Pass American, which is scheduled to take place at noon.

The winner of Sunday’s game will be back in action at 6 p.m. on Monday against the winner of Gold Valley and Medford Nationals to secure a spot on the District 8 Championship. The loser of Del Norte’s first game will drop down to the bottom of the bracket for another game on Monday at 3 p.m.

“We don’t want to put any stress on ourselves, but to win the district tournament is our number one goal,” Rice said. “We are taking it one step at a time, so it starts with game one.”

Softball 8-10 All Stars

After advancing straight to the state tournament last year as the only 8-10 all star softball team in Oregon District 8, Del Norte will have a little bit of competition in Medford this year.

The Warriors lone challenger in the district tournament is Gold Valley, so the double elimination tournament will consist of a best-of-three series starting today at 1 p.m.

The two teams will meet again on Sunday at 1 p.m., with a third game scheduled for Monday at noon if necessary.

“Historically when it comes to District 8 Softball, the top players over in the valley are playing ASA softball at this time and they don’t have a lot of players available when it comes to Little League,” Horner said. “So we were stoked when we heard that they had a team this year. When it comes to this age group anything can happen over there. So we will have to show up and play well to win any district games. That team is practicing just as hard as we are right now, and they are going to get after it also. So I am not expecting anything easy.”

Last year the 8-10 All Star team was comprised mostly of eight and nine year old players, with most of the 10 year olds from Little League competing with a 9-11 All Star Softball team in 2018. Horner said the 2018 state tournament, where the Del Norte 8-10 All Stars went 1-2, was the first tournament experience for most, if not all, of the girls on the team. But with most of the players returning, this year’s squad should already know what to expect.

“It is a big group of girls that played last year and they are 10-year-olds this year,” Horner said. “They have a year under their belt, they are a lot more confident this year, and half of them played in the major division during the season and dropped back down for the 8-10 All Stars. So when it comes to confidence and experience we may have a little bit of an upper hand, at least when it comes to districts.”

In order to reach the team’s full potential, however, Horner said his squad will have to be mentally tough.

“I told them, ‘The difference when it comes to all stars isn’t your talent. It is how hard you want to work, and your mentality,’” he said. “That is one thing that Del Norte has always proven in the past — toughness, grit, and getting after it. That is really what I am trying to instill in these girls right now. It isn’t how hard you hit it or how well you field a ground ball, it is how hard you are going to charge the ball and how you are going to come back from the one that you missed?”

Baseball 8-10 All Stars

The Del Norte 8-10 All Stars have been the top team in District 8 in each of the last three seasons, but it will be a mostly new group of All Stars challenging for a spot in the Oregon Little League State Tournament in 2019.

Head coach Waylon Loftin said there are a handful of players returning for the 2018 8-10 All Stars, but most of the team is comprised of eight and nine-year-old players who are looking forward to their first foray into All Star baseball.

“Our team is a lot younger than most teams. Most teams have a lot more 10 year olds but we don’t — a lot of them moved on after last year from the team that won districts and went on to state,” Loftin said. “So we have a lot of up-and-coming talent for that age group. So next year you are more than likely going to see a lot of the kids on the team this year again.”

Although Del Norte has a young team, even by 8-10 All Star standards, Loftin said he has been impressed with the overall maturity of young squad.

“There is so much character on this team and we have a lot of talented boys. It is really nice to be able to have such a talented young group of kids to work with,” Loftin said. “A lot of the kids are very mature, and that is how you become a talented kid. You have to be mature and able to pay attention to what is going on so that you are capable of making a play. If I take a kid that normally played infield during the season and I put them in the outfield, if I can ask him if he understands why I put him there and he can look at me an answer ‘Yes,’ that is a big step for someone who is nine or ten years old. Because most kids only understand that, ‘I want to play there, so how come I’m here?’”

Loftin said he is excited to see how his team fares at the district tournament, but he said one of the main keys for his team will be the way that the kdis react to what is expected to be an exceptionally warm few days in Medford.

“It is going to be hot over there considering that we are on the coast over here and it is usually about 28 degrees difference between us and them,” Loftin said. “We have been trying to practice in the midday — around 3 to 5 p.m. — so they can get a full understanding that it is going to be hot, you’ll have to drink water, and you still have to perform. As in any sport, if you can’t beat the terrain then you are probably going to have a really long day.”

The Del Norte’s 8-10 Baseball All Stars will kick off their district tournament today with a game against Grants Pass Nationals at noon.

If the Warriors win they would be back in action on Sunday at noon against the Medford Nationals. A loss today would put the Warriors on the bottom of the double elimination bracket where they would face either Brookings or Central Point on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Junior Baseball (13-14)

The Del Norte Junior All Stars are the only such team in Oregon’s District 8 this season, and therefore automatically qualify to advance to the Oregon State Tournament which will be held in Bend, Oregon starting on July 13.

Senior Baseball (15-16)

The Del Norte Senior All Stars are also the only senior all star team in District 8 this season, so like the junior all stars, Del Norte will advance straight to the Oregon State Tournament. The Senior Baseball Oregon State Tournament is scheduled to be held in Keizer, Oregon starting on July 6.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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