Del Norte Little League had a phenomenal week in Medford, Oregon at the Oregon District 8 Tournaments last week.
The local Little League formed six All Star teams for this summer, and five are moving on to their respective Oregon state tournaments scheduled for next month, or beyond.
Although two of the Del Norte teams went unchallenged as the only team of their age level in the district bracket, four Del Norte teams competed with three coming back to Crescent City with District 8 Championship banners.
Del Norte’s Major Baseball All Stars (10-12 years old), Major Softball All Stars (10-12), and Minor Softball All Stars (8-10) not only all won district championships, they all went undefeated through their respective double elimination tournaments.
For more on both of Del Norte’s major teams championship runs see the June 22 edition of the Del Norte Triplicate.
Del Norte also sent a Minor Baseball All Star team to the District 8 Tournament. It managed to win one game before being knocked out of the District 8 Tournament in the round of five.
Minor Softball All Stars
The Del Norte 8-10 All Star softball team ran roughshod over their only opponent in the District 8 Tournament last week. Del Norte kick off the postseason with a 30-0 victory over Gold Valley, and came back for a 21-5 win on the next day to win the double elimination tournament.
Despite the gaudy final scores, head coach John Horner said he was most impressed with the team’s blue collar attitude on back-to-back days in Medford’s heat.
“We showed up, punched our card and went to work,” he said. “Unfortunately for the girls, not a lot of girls in the valley play little league. But our girls showed up, they played very well, they executed very well, and the outcome was about what could be expected when you play hard like we did.”
Although it was the first time that this group has played together in its entirety, Horner said the team has already showed many of the qualities that it takes to be successful.
“I think what I learned is that we have a lot of grit,” Horner said. “We moved the girls around quite a bit and there wasn’t any selfishness. It was very much a team effort and everybody was willing to do whatever it took to win the ball game. That is kind of what I ask out of the girls. Everybody has talent when it comes to All Star baseball and softball but the question is, who is willing to get dirty to go win? My girls have definitely embraced that attitude.”
Horner said the team’s greatest strength seems to be its pitching staff, which dominated Gold Valley’s hitters in districts.
“Our pitchers did a very good job on the mound,” he said. “To be 8-10 years old, to play in 95 degree weather, and to still throw strikes and strike people out is impressive. Hats off to them.”
With players on the team as much as three years apart in age, Horner said he was also impressed with the leadership provided by the older girls on the squad.
“We have a big age gap.” he said. “My eight-year-old daughter Taylor (Horner) is one of our pitchers, and it is very cool to see a second grader out there with the fifth graders. The fifth-graders are being the leaders and mentors and really giving her support when she is on the mound. That is the kind of support and leadership that the fifth graders have been providing to the younger girls because there is quite an age gap when it comes to 8-10 — sometimes that is four years of school. So it makes a big difference.”
By winning the District 8 Tournament, Del Norte qualifies to move on to the Oregon State Tournament in Portland, starting on July 12.
Del Norte took the rest of the week off after districts, but are already back to work this week.
“I gave them a week off to enjoy the first week of summer after school,” Horner said. “There is a lot of burnout that can happen over the summer. These girls worked hard all school-year to have a decent summer, so I am trying to give them their free time at the same time. But when they show up to those two-hour practices they had better be a ready to focus, and we saw that on Monday when we got back to practice.”
Although Del Norte dominated at districts, Horner said he expects the competition at state to be much tougher.
“Del Norte Little League hasn’t had a state championship in softball since we started 25 years ago as far as I know,” Horner said. “I think the Major Softball team has a chance to make a run at it this year, and our 8-10 team can make a run at it too, but things have to go our way. There are a lot of teams up there that have been playing competitive tournament softball all spring, and we have just gotten together a month ago.”
Horner said that he expects the Del Norte 8-10 All Stars pitching staff to once again play a major role for the team at the State Tournament.
“My standout pitcher Delaina Bommelyn — she is a 10 year old,” he said. “We didn’t use her too much in districts. She pitched two innings, but in those two innings she faced seven batters and struck out six of them. She will be available every day of the state tournament... We have other good pitchers down the road too if we need them.”
In the field, the Warriors will be lead by another talented 10-year old.
“Defensively our leader — by far — is Bella (Isabella) Arriola,” Horner said. “She is my shortstop, and she is the vocal leader of the whole team. She cheers everybody on, she is super supportive, and I hit probably hit 150 ground balls to her on Monday and she didn’t even flinch — even after she got a little bit of a bloody finger. That is the mentality that she shows.”
Del Norte didn’t have any trouble scoring runs in the district tournament, but Horner said the team will look to its collection of 10-year-old players when they run up against better pitching in Portland.
“Everybody was getting on base and scoring at the district tournament, but we are really going to lean on those 10-year-olds to have that confidence in the box moving forward,” Horner said. “When the ball is being thrown softer like it was at districts everybody is going to stand in the box. The question is, when the ball is coming a little bit faster and harder, who is going to be able to stand in there and hit it? I expect my 10 year olds to lead the way for us, start the momentum, and get our confidence going.”
Horner also wanted to thank all of the community support that the team has received from Del Norte County, without which the team’s trip to state would be difficult — if not impossible.
“We really appreciate all of the community support with all of the fundraisers,” he said. “That really makes a huge difference when it comes to traveling. We have 12 sets of parents going to watch their kids play and we have to be up there for four nights in Portland. So it is not a cheap experience. It is just amazing how this community rallies around us, so we really want to just thank the community.”
Minor Baseball All Stars
The Del Norte 8-10 Baseball All Stars ended up with a tough draw in the District 8 Tournament, facing eventual runner up Grants Pass National in two of the team’s three games in Medford.
Del Norte opened up with an 11-1 loss to Grants Pass in its first game, but bounced back for an exciting 13-11 victory over Central Point the next day. Unfortunately Del Norte ran into Grants Pass Nationals again in the round of five. Although Del Norte was able to get it’s bats going in the second outing against Grants Pass, they couldn’t quite keep pace with the Nationals offense, falling 18-8.
Although Del Norte’s run ended earlier than hoped, head coach Waylon Loftin said his team, comprised mostly of 9-year-old players, played well in what was the first All Star experience for most of the team.
“I couldn’t be more proud. For a band of little guys and a few older vet kids they really held their own up there. Especially since we were coming in with a whole new team,” Loftin said. “There is a big step up in the competitive level with the All Stars. You start seeing kids like the Grants Pass National pitcher who was throwing about 50 miles an hour and is about my size — that is extraordinary for a kid that age. It intimidates some of the younger kids, so you have to learn to play with that factor.”
Del Norte ended up facing the Grants Pass Nationals ace in both games. After struggling to get on base in the first game of the tournament, Del Norte started to get the bat on the ball more consistently the second time around.
“We did a lot better against them the second time,” Loftin said. “They have a really good pitcher who was really throwing the ball and we were having a tough time even getting a piece of it in the first game. The second time around we started hitting, but they took a big early lead and that ended up being the difference in the end. We just couldn’t put enough points up to catch up.”
In between losses against the Nationals, Del Norte showed off its grit in a nail bitting 13-11 comeback victory over Central Point.
“The second game was a battle back and forth from the first inning until the end,” Loftin said. “We had Rumaldo Salcedo Jr. pitch for the first half of the game and he did a great job. They were really having a tough time hitting off him. When he hit his pitch count we brought in Carlos Gomez and he ended up closing out the rest of the game.”
After scoring just one run in the first game, Del Norte’s offense started to get on track against Central Point.
“Little Jeremiah Griffin just crushed one out to right center, brought two runners in, and ended up with a triple off of it,” Loftin said. “That really got our bats going.”
Salcedo Jr. kept the offense rolling for Del Norte with a three-RBI triple in the next inning and the hits just kept coming.
In the sixth inning, with Del Norte clinging to a two-run lead, Gomez got the Central Point batter to pop up to the pitchers mound and made the catch himself to secure the win.
“I will never forget that,” Loftin said. “He was so excited. And he is so quite and reserved. If you knew that kid you would be surprised that he would even be excited about something. It was really cool to see, and he did a great job.”
Although Del Norte’s postseason run is at an end, Loftin said the future is bright for the players on Del Norte’s youngest All Star baseball team.
“There are so many talented kids on this team,” he said. “You are probably going to keep seeing them all the way through high school.”
On to the next tournament
The Oregon Little League State Tournaments will start up in the second week of July with four Del Norte teams scheduled to participate, and a fifth team which will bypass the state tournament and proceed straight to regionals.
The Del Norte Major Softball All Stars will kick of state tournament action for Del Norte as the Oregon Little League State Tournament is scheduled to begin on July 6 in Keizer, Oregon.
The Del Norte Minor Softball All Stars state tournament run will start its state tournament on June 12 at Parkrose High School in Portland.
The Del Norte Major Baseball All Stars will be back in action at the State Tournament, which will be held in Bend, Oregon starting on July 13.
Del Norte’s Junior Baseball All Stars (13-14) will play its first postseason games this summer at the Oregon State Tournament. It will be held at the same time and location as the Major Baseball State Tournament — July 13 in Bend.
Del Norte’s Senior Baseball All Stars (15-16) are the only such all star team in the entire state of Oregon this year, so the Del Norte team will advance all the way to the regional tournament which will be held July 18-24 in Sacramento.