Host Columbia LL team ready for junior regional

Tournament will send one team to World Series

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

 

IF YOU GO

Who: League League Junior Baseball (ages 13-14).

What: Western Regional Tournament.

When: July 13-Aug 8.

Where: Propstra Stadium at Hudson’s Bay High School, 1601 East McLoughlin Blvd.

Cost: $4 daily (up to 4 games); $20 for a tournament pass.

At stake: Tournament champion advances to the Junior League World Series in Taylor, Mich.

The Columbia Little League team that will be playing this week at Propstra Stadium didn't need to do as much work for this opportunity as the other 11 teams in the Junior League Baseball Western Regional tournament.

As the host team for this 10-state tournament for players ages 13-14, Columbia didn't win a state championship to be in position to take on Manhattan Beach, the Southern California champions, at 3 p.m. today.

But that doesn't mean the local team is in over its head.

"I feel like we could have done well at state," said Anthony Barrett, the manager for Columbia.

His team won the local District 4 tournament, going 6-0 and defeating Fort Vancouver 7-1 in the district title game. The Columbia team features 10 14-year-olds and one 13-year-old. Most of the players have been all-stars for Columbia Little League for at least three years. This team was also District 4 champion in 2011 and played in last year's Junior League state tournament.

Little League, Inc., announced in the fall that it would move this regional to Vancouver from Irvine, Calif.

For seven summers, ending in 2010, the Little League Softball Western Regional was held at Fort Vancouver Little League. When Little League moved that softball regional tournament to San Bernardino, Calif., local district administrator Mike Ray and other area Little League volunteers started seeking a different Little League event for Vancouver.

Support from businesses and community leaders is critical to attracting such tournaments and making them a success, Ray said.

Columbia Credit Union recently agreed to pay for the cost of renting Propstra Stadium for the event and is the tournament's title sponsor.

The 10 states with teams in the tournament are Washington, Oregon, California (two teams), Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Montana and Utah.

A tournament pass good for all 28 games of the regional costs $20. Daily tickets cost $4. There are between two and four games each day during the round-robin phase of the tournament.

Each team will play four times between Tuesday and Monday, Aug. 6. Semifinal games are on Aug. 7 and the championship game is on Aug. 8. The champion advances to the Junior League World Series, which begins on Aug. 12 in Taylor, Mich.

Barrett said his team expects to be in the hunt for that prize.

Host teams often struggle against state championship teams that are battle tested when they arrive at a regional tournament. But Barrett said that the pitching depth, consistent hitting, and speed on this Columbia team could be a recipe for success in this regional competition.

All 11 of the Columbia players pitched at least some during their 2012 league season. Six of them figure prominently in the pitching plans for this tournament, Barrett said.

Junior League is the division where players jump to full-size diamonds with 90 feet between the bases and 60 feet, 6 inches between the pitching mound and home plate.

Barrett said his team has consistent hitters throughout the lineup. Only one of the Columbia players has hit a home run in 2012, but Barrett said his team's offense emphasizes getting on base and using speed.

"We make a lot of contact," Barrett said. "We put the ball in play and put the pressure on the defense to make plays."

Players for the host Columbia All-Stars are Matthew Allison, Riley Ellison, Matthew Loftgren, Kyle Moen, Trevor Moore, Trevor Murphy, Jacob Olivarez, Toby Newell, Jacob Shimer, Jacob Trump and Kody Ulrich. Barrett is assisted by coaches are Curt Allison and Dave Moore.

For a complete tournament schedule, list of teams and score updates visit www.juniorregionals.com.