Photo by Ray Rodriguez
THE DALLES LITTLE LEAGUE 11U All Stars take time after a practice game last Thursday for a team picture. In the shot are players (pictured from left to right in front row), Nathan Hedges, Keegan Losee, Elijah Roden, Shane Floyd, James Garrett, Carson Smith, Keon Kiser and William Hoover. In the back row are (from left), Coach Chad Smith, Andru Weaver, Drew Evans, Gabe Petroff, Austin Agidius, Manager Rob Garrett and Coach Chris Losee. The Stars start District 5 Tournament play at 8 a.m. Sunday against the winner of Bend North and Hood River Valley. With an expereinced group of athletes on the roster, the Stars are eyeing a big streak to earn a state berth.
When it comes to playing in intense situations, in front of large crowds and against quality teams, The Dalles 11U All Stars have shown in the past they have the intestinal fortitude needed to come out on top.
Starting at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, the Stars begin their march towards greatness at the Little League District 5 Tournament starting June 27 and ending July 2 at Kramer Field in The Dalles.
In having so much experience from tournament games in the past, assistant coach Chad Smith said playing in high-pressure situations would help his team fight through some rough spots and tense moments through the tournament.
“Having extra experience helps them in situational play,” Smith said. “Having been in multiple tournaments and having been on a couple of different all-star teams, they come out to this field and they are calm. They have been in this situation before where a lot of kids do not have those opportunities. Those kids that have more experience, have an edge.”
The 11U bracket has Bend North, Hood River Valley, Warm Springs, Bend South and The Dalles.
Leading the Stars are 12 players, who are coming off a 1-2 record last year in district play in Hermiston.
“It is pretty important to take this seriously,” Stars player Andru Weaver said. “It is going to take hard work and focus to win. We just have to hit good and play good defense.”
Shane Floyd, Keon Kiser, William Hoover, Nathan hedges, Gabe Petroff, James Garrett and Weaver provide defensive and offensive skills to the roster.
“When we show up to play, I think we are pretty good,” said Carson Smith. “We have come together pretty nice for all-stars. We are pretty good at fielding and hitting. We put the bat on the ball. We have a lot of guys who can hit the ball far.”
With so many versatile players in tow, coach Rob Garrett has devised a plan to move people around to offset some of the heat issues that can wreak havoc on miscues.
Weaver said the squad has come together very well in the past two weeks of practice, looking good in the process.
“Our team has looked really good. We are just a group of good ballplayers,” Weaver said.
During these few practices, Coach Garrett said the hitting has made him smile. It could put his team above the ranks.
He added that as long they can put the bat on the ball, play great defense and have a lot of heart, determination and willpower and the will to succeed, they would be fine.
“We need to focus,” Carson Smith said. “I heard these teams are pretty tough to play, so we need to stay focused. The little things count and we learned that in practice tonight.”
On the mound, the Stars have a stable of eight arms that could log some innings, but Carson Smith, Austin Agidius, Drew Evans, Elijah Roden and Keegan Losee are the thoroughbreds who can carry the all-stars in the postseason.
“We have some good pitchers. They all have different skills to help this team out,” Coach Garrett said. “What it comes down to is for us to play good defense. We can’t let silly balls get between our legs. We got to be smart and think in our head what we are going to do when we get the ball.”
Win or lose, Garrett takes pride in knowing he was a part of history – History in building lasting memories for these young ballplayers and a history in the proven starting ground for many of these players who could potentially soar to the high school level and beyond.
In his years of coaching, Garrett has not seen a more mentally and physically prepared bunch.
He gives kudos to the players and their families for laying the groundwork for future success.
Coach Smith said these athletes have evolved over time, adding that the feeder programs are important to the community, so it can keep the kids on the right track.
“It is a great honor to be able to coach these kids and watch them from the time they were from third grade until now and see how much they have progressed through the ranks in this community and on the field and how they have developed into great young men,” Coach Smith said. “These are good kids.”
The Stars take on the Bend North/Hood River Valley winner at 8 a.m. on Sunday, June 28.
An opening-round win puts TD in a game at 9 a.m. on June 30 versus Warm Springs/Bend South winner.
If the Stars lose their first-round contest, they play at 9 a.m. on June 29, and another loss eliminates them from the playoffs.
A TD victory on June 30, and it hits the field on July 2 at 9 a.m. for the championship.
If necessary, another game could be played at 2 p.m. on July 2 to determine the champion and state qualifier.