The final stretch of the 2012 Little League Baseball season starts this weekend for four Laguna Beach teams in the District 55 All-Star tournament.
The Majors and 10/11 teams start tourney play Saturday. The 9/10 team plays its first game Sunday and the Junior team is in action Monday. The double-elimination event runs through next week, culminating in championship finals in each division.
There are no tournament games Wednesday because of the Fourth of July holiday.
Opener: 4 p.m. Saturday, vs. Laguna Niguel (Chapparosa Park, Laguna Niguel).
The Majors Division All-Star team began preparing for district play June 16.
Manager Eric Wills said that each of the players on the Laguna team attend Thurston Middle School and that "most" have played in Laguna Beach Little League since age of 6. ."
"We have an outstanding team this year," he said. "All the boys have played together for a long time and they are ready to play."
Wills, who managed Team Hobie in the District 55 Tournament of Champions, said he doesn't know too much about his team's first-round opponent, Laguna Niguel.
"Their TOC team knocked us (Hobie) out of TOC this year and they had some very good players on that team," Will said. "I'm sure we will see some of those players in this tournament. Laguna Niguel has a great baseball program. We are looking forward to the challenge."
The team: Blake Burzell, Justin Holm, James Langton, John Langton, Jack Loechner, Remy Mackel, Dean Nunis, Will Ross, Dylan Smith, Lance Stewart, Zach Washer, Jack Wills, Alternates: Thomas Garcia, Dylan Schreyer, Jack Raffo, Kyle McCombs. Manager: Eric Wills. Coaches: Kirk Langton, Rob Smith.
Opener: 11 a.m. Saturday, vs. Laguna Niguel (Hicks Canyon Park, Irvine).
Manager Mike Morgan said this group is comprised of players who are hard workers who are "dedicated to playing the best baseball they can."
Morgan said that Grady Morgan (Hobie), or Christian Herry (Sportsworld), will start on the mound Saturday.
"We expect a very hard battle against Laguna Niguel," Mike Morgan said. "They are a tough opponent and field very talented teams every year. As you know, Laguna Beach is a small community, so we really have our work cut out for us. We have some strong players and hope that we can fight hard and stay alive as long a possible. I encourage the community and other Little League families to come out and support us."
The team: Sam Burgi, Nicholas Carpino, Jack Casey, Will Clark, Christian Herry, Cole Hunt, Hunter Johnson, Ethan Kupperman, William Lichtenstein, Joshua McManus, Grady Morgan, Daniel Nash, Alternates: Wesley Wittman, Sam Reynolds, Sam Kluver. Manager: Mike Morgan. Coaches: Johnny Hunt, Mike Reynolds.
Opener: 4 p.m. Sunday, vs. Rancho Niguel, Lake Forest, or Saddleback (Woodfield Park, Aliso Viejo).
The 9/10 All-Star team drew a first-round bye, and plays its first game the winner of the Rancho Niguel vs. Lake Forest/Saddleback game. The winner of Sunday's game advances to a winners'-bracket game Thursday. The loser will play an elimination game Tuesday.
Manager Tim Loughlin says Laguna is heading into district play with a clear vision in mind.
"Our team goal is to hang the first All-Star champion banner at Riddle field," he said. "Our kids continue to close the talent gap on the other district leagues."
Loughlin and coaches Carl Meiswinkel and Taylor Pillsbury have held practices daily the two weeks leading up to the tournament.
"With a few exceptions, this same group of kids competed last year in the tournament," Loughlin said. "We made it to the championship game, but were humbled by a very strong Aliso Viejo team. If we play like we have been practicing, we should be competitive".
Laguna will hold its final pre-tourney practice Friday. Loughlin said a decision as to who will be named starting pitcher for Sunday's opener will be made late-Friday. He said among the leading candidates to start Sunday are Nate Magers (Crescent Bay Advisors) and Charlie Pillsbury (American Legion).
The team: Dylan Brashier, Lance Detweiler, Ayrton Garcia, Brooks Hogenauer, Christian Holm, James Loughlin, Nate Magers, Charlie Pillsbury, Will Potratz, Jett Rocha, Nolan Smith, Jackson Yelland, Alternates: Joshua Meiswinkel, Nicholas Lucas, Noah Linder. Manager: Tim Loughlin. Coaches: Carl Meiswinkel, Taylor Pillsbury.
Opener: 6:30 p.m. Monday, vs. Laguna Niguel (Woodfield Park, Alsio Viejo).
The Junior team has the weekend off, giving this All-Star squad the opportunity to hit the practice field again.
Laguna has held practices four times per week since June 18.
"I think the team has a good chance at winning some games in this tournament," Manager Beau Hutson said. "We play very well-coached teams, so we need to work hard and [stay] focused to keep up with them. Hopefully we can capitalize on mistakes that the other team makes."
Hutson said Monday's starting pitcher could be either Bruce Knill, Cole Calabrese or Brandon Marquez. The trio played for the Firefighters during the regular season.
"Most of our players can play more then one position on the field, and also play the positions very well, so this will help the team in more ways then one," Hutson said. "We also don't have a full roster; we have only 10 (players)."
Hutson said that All-Star selections Jack Dickinson, Daniel Peterson, Bayley Thomas, Jack Dickerson (alternate) and Davis Price (alternate) have dropped from the roster and will not play in the tournament.
The team: William Bonn, Cole Calabrese, Sean Conley, Ian Detweiler, Bruce Knill, Jordan Leppo, Brandon Marquez, Carter Monacell, Alden Stoneman, Alternates: Michael Bacino. Manager: Beau Hutson.