As of Thursday, July 14, 2016
It’s all on the line this week as The Dalles 14U Babe Ruth All-Stars softball team jumps into tournament action in Meridian, Idaho. The team has two games on Thursday.
The first game – scheduled for Thursday morning -- is against Kuna, Idaho, and the second game, which will start just after noon, will be against Meridian, the team hosting this year’s tournament.
“The first day’s games are pool play and will set the three 14U teams in for Friday's bracket play,” explained Assistant Coach Dawn Marie Hert.
Hert added that The Dalles has not played Kuna for several years, and is not very familiar with the team.
“We have not seen or played against Kuna since our first regional tourney four years ago in Meridian,” Hert said. “Kuna is known for its strength in offense.”
Last year’s regional games were in Hoquiam, Wash., and Hert believes the players learned a lot and should benefit from their experiences in the 2015 tournament.
“Of the 13 players, seven moved up from last year’s 12U All-Star team; three returned as 14U players, and two new players came from south county,” Hert said. “The 14U battled last year, but were unable to bring a win in the tourney.”
Although last year’s foray into the playoff round did not meet with much success, Hert said the team is better-prepared for the challenge this year.
“This year’s 14U is strong and prepared,” Hert said. “Both coaches believe this is the strongest team to date, with strength very evident on the bench. The team is peaking and ready to go. Their batting has seemed to come alive in the past week. The girls are all ready and capable to lay down various bunts and place the ball on the field.”
Duane Witter, The Dalles High School’s softball coach, recently joined the team practices and helped fine-tune their batting and worked individually with catchers and pitchers.
According to Hert, the tournament is being held a week earlier than last year, which has forced coaches to jam as many practices as possible into a short couple of weeks.
“The girls practiced five to eight times a week, batting and regular practice, and their hard work shows,” Hert said. “They are dedicated and determined, and have a true sense of what it takes to win games and be successful.”
The morning’s starting pitcher was scheduled to be four-year regional tourney veteran Emily Palmer, with three-year veteran Kaya Byrd and four-year veteran Courtney Hert available to serve in a relief role as needed.
Hert said regardless of the final outcomes of the games, she is grateful to the organizations sponsoring the tournament.
“The coaches and players want to be sure to give a shout out to both The Dalles Babe Ruth League and The Dalles Girls Softball Association for helping make these tourneys possible,” Hert said.