Local stars set to shine

GLENDALE — Closing in on the opening of the Little League District 16 All-Star Tournament, Dave Ritchie can feel the anticipation in the air.

There's something about the tournament that Ritchie, the district's volunteer administrator, said can bring out the best in the plethora of athletes who take to the area baseball and softball fields in anticipation of extending their summers.

"The prospect of winning and moving on is the most exciting part of it," Ritchie said. "You wind up playing teams that you've never played before and there's that do-or-die feeling to stay alive in the ultimate goal of reaching the World Series.

"In the All-Star Tournament, you get the best of deep lineups and even deeper pitching. You have a short amount of time to be prepared and it's over in just a couple of weeks."

Teams from the four baseball and softball divisions are combing through their respective rosters in the hope of advancing out of the double-elimination tournament. The winners from each tournament will advance to the Section 2 Tournament, which will be held in mid-July at different locations around Southern California.

The Junior Softball portion of the tournament will kick things off when Crescenta Valley faces Burbank at 5 p.m. today at Scholl Canyon Ball Fields. Tujunga has a first-round bye.

The 9- and 10-year-old division will feature a pair of teams with Crescenta Valley meeting Tujunga in an opening-round contest at 5 p.m. Friday at Scholl. The 10- and 11-year-old and Major softball tournaments will start Tuesday at Scholl. Crescenta Valley will compete against Foothill in the two-team 10-11 Softball tournament, with the first game set for 5 p.m. In the two-team Major Division bracket, Crescenta Valley will face powerful Burbank at 7:30.

"I can see all of the softball tournaments being good ones," Ritchie said. "Most of the teams are very good and some of the divisions might be wide open.

"The Junior Tournament between CV and Burbank can be a great series."

In baseball, two brackets will begin Thursday. The 9- and 10-year-old and Major divisions will each pit six teams.

Thursday's opening-round matchups in the 9- and 10-year-old division will be Tujunga against Burbank at 5 p.m. at Pacific Park, followed by Vaquero against Foothill at 7:30 at the same location. Jewel City/Jewish War Veterans and Crescenta Valley will welcome the winners on Friday.

The Major Baseball games will consist of Vaquero against Crescenta Valley at 5 p.m. at Montrose Park and Foothill versus Tujunga at 7:30. with Burbank and JC/JWV waiting in the wings for Friday contests.

Crescenta Valley Major Coach Frank Gangi said the talent level multiplies during the All-Star Tournament.

"You have to start by looking at the combination of hitters and pitchers," Gangi said. "Each kid in the lineup can hit and the pitching is a notch better.

"You just have a better all-around good combination of talent out there."

The Junior Division will consist of Crescenta Valley, Jewel City and Burbank. Crescenta Valley will meet Burbank in an opening-round contest at 6 p.m. Friday at Scholl. Jewel City drew a first-round bye.

The 10- and 11-year-old bracket will feature Crescenta Valley and Burbank. The teams will first compete at 3 p.m. Saturday at Scholl.

Ritchie said determining the favorite from each division in baseball won't be easy.

"I think the younger divisions are real hard to call," Ritchie said. "The Major Division will be wide open and the level of play in the Junior Division should be formidable."

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