GLENDALE — With the Tri-Cities District 16 Tournament of Champions nearly finished, many area Little League baseball and softball players have begun gearing up for the next level of competition — the District 16 All-Star tournaments.
The playing field is expected to become more of a challenge, as the best of the best in each age division will flock to local diamonds in the quest to help their respective teams win championships in the double-elimination tournaments. The winners from each tournament will advance to the Section 2 Tournament, which will be held in mid-July at different locations across Southern California.
"All the leagues [from the Tournament of Champions] are combined and you get to pick the best players," said Joe Boeke, the district's assistant administrator. "For the kids, they know it's an opportunity to potentially move closer to going to the Little League World Series.
"The coaches know it, too. The players get to see kids their own age playing on ESPN, so the motivation is special."
The All-Star Tournament will feature three divisions each of baseball and softball.
The tournament began Monday with Foothill battling Crescenta Valley in a Major Softball game at Scholl Canyon Ball Fields. The teams will then play in the championship game at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Scholl, while an if-necessary title game would start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the same location.
The 9-10 Softball tournament will begin with Foothill taking on Tujunga at Scholl at 5 p.m. today, followed by Crescenta Valley against Burbank at 7:30 at the same site. The championship game in the four-team division will be held at 5 p.m. July 5 at Scholl with the if-necessary championship game at Scholl at time to be determined the following day.
The first baseball tournament up will be the Junior Division. Burbank will meet Foothill at 6 p.m. July 6 at Dunsmore Park with the winner facing Crescenta Valley at 5 p.m. July 8 at Tujunga Little League Fields. The championship game will be at 6 p.m. July 10 at Dunsmore Park and the if-necessary title game will start at 5 p.m. July 11 at Tujunga Little League Fields.
The six-team Major Baseball tournament will start July 7 with Foothill taking on Tujunga at 5 p.m. at Tujunga Little League Fields, followed by Vaquero against Crescenta Valley at 7:30 p.m. The winner of the Foothill-Tujunga game will take on Jewel City-Jewish War Veterans at 5 p.m. July 8 at Montrose Park and the winner of the Vaquero-Crescenta Valley game will face Burbank at 7:30 p.m. at Montrose Park. The championship game is at 7:30 p.m. July 13 at Babe Herman Field and the if-necessary championship contest will be played July 14 at a time to be determined at Babe Herman Field.
The four-team 10-11 Baseball tournament will kick off July 8 with two games at Scholl Canyon Ball Fields. Crescenta Valley will meet Burbank at 5 p.m., followed by Foothill against Tujunga at 7:30. The championship game will start at 6 p.m. July 12 at Scholl and the if-necessary championship game will be held at 6 p.m. July 13 at Scholl.
Junior Softball will be the last tournament to get started. The two teams are Crescenta Valley and Burbank. The first game will be held at 6:30 p.m. July 11 at Scholl. The title game will begin at 6:30 p.m. July 12 at Scholl and the if-necessary championship game will be held at 6:30 p.m. July 13 at Scholl.
Boeke said he believes quality pitching will be the key to advance.
"Some teams will have a deep five or six pitchers," Boeke said. "If you lose in an early-round game, then you are playing every day and that will be helpful having all that extra pitching.
"Softball is normally dominated by pitching. In baseball, it's more about balance and having a good lineup."