District champs: Hood River Little League’s 9/10 All Star squad won last week’s district tournament and are off to state, starting this weekend in Scappoose. Pictured are (back) coaches Kris Zorza, Jason Kona and Chris Nickelsen and players (left to right) Aunika Yasui, Reese Leiblein, Celilo Brun, Grace Guertin, Kyla Zorza, Mikayla Matthews, Rylee Kona, Molly Routson, Jessa Nickelsen, Mollie Ritoch, Taylor Beam and Bella Moore.
Hood River Little League’s four All-Star teams returned from Bend after several days of sunny summer ball in Central Oregon during the annual District 5 tournament. Made up of top players selected by coaches from teams in Parkdale, Odell, Hood River, White Salmon and Trout Lake, the teams competed in double-elimination brackets against squads from a dozen other leagues in the region for a shot at the state tournament held next week in Scappoose.
The only team to win its bracket and represent Hood River at the next level was the 9/10 girls, who went undefeated in four rounds, including a 15-4 rout of Crook County in the finals to claim top honors and extend the season for another couple weeks.
“Last year we went down, won one game and lost the next two, so our expectations weren’t high going into the tournament,” coach Kris Zorza said about the girls, who played through 100-plus degree temperatures for part of the week. “It was 101 degrees at one point, which was pretty tough. It was so hot during one game that players were taking water breaks in the middle of innings just to cool off. The girls played through it and really came together as a team; it was awesome. And a lot of people came down to support the girls, which we really appreciated.”
Coaches Jason Kona, Chris Nickelsen and Zorza will work with the girls daily through this week before traveling to Scappoose for the state tournament, which is the highest level the girls can play to at that age. Their first game will be Saturday in the double-elimination bracket.
“They’re taking it pretty seriously,” Zorza said. “These kids don’t like to lose.”
For the Hood River boys teams, all three won multiple games and came within a round or two of the finals before being eliminated in the consolation bracket. Starting with the oldest, the 11/12 boys, a 5-4 win against Hermiston in the opening round turned out to be one of the best games of the bracket. Hermiston fought back later in the tournament to defeat Hood River by a single run to knock them out of the bracket and advance to the finals, where the team defeated The Dalles 3-1 to claim the title.
The 10/11 boys started off with a bang in their bracket with an 11-1 win over Crook County before experiencing the reverse fortune with a 10-0 loss vs. The Dalles. The boys bounced back with two more wins before being eliminated with a 15-5 loss against Bend South in the consolation semifinals.
The 9/10 boys opened with commanding wins over John Day River and Columbia before losing a clincher 8-7 against Bend North. The team went on to defeat John Day River once more before facing a 12-0 loss against Hermiston, which went on to win the bracket with a tight win over Bend North.