The Del Norte Major Softball All Stars run at the Oregon Little League State Championship came to a close on Sunday after two games.
Del Norte started the tournament off with a 9-2 loss against Pendleton. The Warriors bounced back and played better on Sunday against Redmond according to head coach Meagan Curtis, but they couldn’t quite complete the comeback and ended up falling 3-2.
Although it was the third straight trip to the state tournament for most of the players on the Del Norte team, it was the first time competing in the 10-12 age division. Curtis said one of the things that stood out most to her was just how much softball some of the other teams have played.
“I have seen this in volleyball quite a bit and this was kind of my first experience with coaching a softball team this way, but you could definitely tell that the teams that we played had a lot more experience than we did,” she said. “They have played a lot more softball than us. Their hitters have seen a lot more pitchers, and their defense has seen a lot more batters. Overall, I think that we had the talent to be there, but our lack of experience and overall softball playing-time that we have accumulated was a lot lighter than the other teams that we saw.”
Del Norte got a difficult draw on Saturday, going up against a Pendleton team that Curtis said proved to be one of the top teams in Keizer, Oregon over the weekend.
“I really would not be surprised if they come out winning the state tournament,” Curtis said. “They were a very well put together and very talented team. They definitely hit the ball very well and they were very strong fundamentally. You could just tell by how they fielded the ball and how they got on and off the field that they have done it so many times that they knew what they were doing.”
Curtis said she thought Del Norte could have kept the game against Pendleton closer, but some nerves got the better of the Warriors in the first game of the tournament.
“We did not hit the ball very well in the first game,” Curtis said. “I think a lot of it was nerves. We weren’t swinging when we should have been swinging. The theme of the tournament seemed to be that we were hitting singles and the other team was hitting doubles. Pendleton actually didn’t have that many more hits than we did, they just had better hits than we did.
“We also had a couple baserunning errors that I chalk up to first-game jitters. We either didn’t slide when we should have, or we rounded the base when we needed to stay on the base. We just had a couple errors like that.”
After an opening round loss, Del Norte bounced back with a more fundamentally sound performance on Sunday.
“We told them after the first day that we had to be better with our baserunning and we had to do better swinging the bats,” Curtis said. “They did that on the second day. We had a time where somebody hit a single and we were able to capitalize on a couple throw-arounds and ended up on third base. So we had better heads up baserunning. We also swung the bat better —we didn’t stand there watching it. We just couldn’t get hits consistently.”
Redmond jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the game, but Del Norte managed to cut the lead in half with another run later in the game.
“It came down to our last at bat, basically,” Curtis said. “We needed to convert and get it tied up to force the bottom half of the sixth inning. We just weren’t able to get it done.”
Although Redmond was able to wrap up the win with three straight outs, Curtis said she was glad to see that each of her hitters were aggressive at the plate with the game on the line.
“We swung the bat all three times,” she said. “The first hit was just enough into the left fielders reach for an out, but she was running and stretching for it. Then we had a strike out swinging. The last batter made good contact, but Redmond defensively executed what they needed to do to get us out.”
The loss on Sunday ended the postseason run for the 10-12 All Stars. After three straight years with mostly the same players competing in the Oregon State Tournament together — first in the 8-10 division, then the 9-11 division before this year’s tournament — the future of this group is a little bit uncertain.
“A little bit more than half of the team is actually eligible to play in the same division next year,” Curtis said. “We have six players who are league-age 12, which means that they will be moving up a division next year. Right now we don’t know, and we probably won’t know until we do sign ups next year, if there will be enough girls to have a junior division. We don’t know if these girls who could play majors again would want to move up a division.”
No matter what happens, Curtis said the players will need to find a way to get back on a softball diamond next summer if they want to close the gap in playing experience that they saw in Keizer over the weekend.
“I do know that we have to have some kind of division or travel team for this group to play in,” Curtis said. “We didn’t have enough players for the girls who were league-age 13 this year and that means that those kids who were part of our program last year basically sat out for a year and they are about to go to high school. We want to keep playing. The only way to battle us not having enough playing experience is to keep playing.”
After making a run to the championship game last summer Curtis said being eliminated after two games was disappointing, but it was still an honor to compete at the Oregon State Tournament.
“I think the kids had a good time,” she said. “It is always a neat experience to be able to qualify and go up to that tournament. Their were seven teams up there representing the finals for the state of Oregon. So to be one of those teams shows that we should be there. I think we were on the level to compete, we just came across two good teams... But one of the girls made a good point. She said, ‘We did make if further than the Wildfire team this year.’”
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