It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. The kids on those ball diamonds have all earned the right to put on that uniform and step into the spotlight as all-stars. Welcome to all-star baseball season in Nevada County, home of the Junior All-Star Tournament hosted by the Grass Valley Little League, the Majors tourney by Nevada City Little League and Rocklin, the 9-10 tourney by Penn Valley Little League and Rocklin and the 10-11 tourney by Lincoln.
“We’ll be hosting 18 games at Condon starting Friday,” said Anthony Jianinno, president of GVLL. “It’s a big tournament. This will be the first year we’ve had the whole district. It’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s great for the community.”
In prior years, the tournament had been broken up into two host sites so half of District 11 played somewhere like Rocklin, and the other half played in Grass Valley, but according to Jianinno, because no other leagues put their name in the hat this year besides Grass Valley, the city now gets the whole lot of youth.
“It takes a large amount of volunteers, approximately 30 to 40 and plus the 17 board members,” explained Jianinno. “We need 14 to 15 volunteers per game. In most leagues, getting the chance to host is a tournament is what you hope for. It’s how we make money. We’ll have tri-tip, chicken caesar salad and special dinner. Lost of adults appreciate it.”
Another hurdle with hosting any tournament, especially one that includes 18 games, is how to maintain the field. With the crazy weather changes the county has experienced this last week from pouring rain to triple-digit temps, a lot of sweat and hard work goes into getting the ball field prepped and ready to go.
“One day I’m out there trying to dry up the puddles out there, and the next day, I had the sprinklers on,” said field maintenance volunteer Rob Trathen. “Between games can be stressful. I love it. It’s a pleasure. It takes a lot of volunteers, but thank God we have a good staff. I haven’t missed a game yet where the visiting coach says, ‘Field looks great.’”
The field did look great as the first pitch was thrown Friday night when the Juniors started the tournament off with a bang at Grass Valley’s Condon Park in a meeting between two high- powered offenses from Nevada City and Bear River, and what first appeared to be a pitcher’s duel quickly escalated into a high-scoring affair.
With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Bear River rallied for eight runs to take a commanding 9-1 lead. Jake Leonard smashed a single to score a pair of runs, then came a triple off the bat of Jake Rogers to score two more. An errant pickoff attempt down to third base allowed two more runs to score, and the game suddenly appeared to have been blown wide open, but Nevada City was just getting started too.
In the top half of the fifth inning, Nevada City rallied to score five runs. The team combined for three hits and also drew three walks in the inning. When all was said and done, Bear River’s lead had been cut to 9-6. The unpredictable nature of Little League play continued as the Bear River All-Stars were not even close to throwing in the towel. They tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single and drew two balks with runners on third base. Pitchers continued to struggle, and Bear River cashed in another run off a balk and held on for a 13-6 victory.
The Juniors continue all-star action at 6 p.m. today at Condon Park in a match up between Grass Valley and Bear River. On Sunday, the Nevada City All-Stars will face the loser of Tri-City vs. Auburn at noon at Condon Park.
The Major All-Star tournament will be played at both Johnson Springview Park in Rocklin for the Area 1 bracket and at Pioneer Park in Nevada City for the Area 2 bracket. First pitch is scheduled for Sunday when Rocklin will take the field against Bear River at 7:30 p.m. At Johnson Springview Park. Games to watch for on Monday include Sierra Foothills versus Penn Valle at 5 p.m. at Pioneer Park and a night game between cross town rivals Grass Valley and Nevada City at 7:30 p.m., which will also be at Pioneer Park.
The 10-11 Minor All-Star tournament will be hosted at Lincoln’s McBean Memorial Park. The first round begins today with a full slate of games as Sierra Foothills takes on Nevada City bright and early at 9 a.m. Next up is a match between Grass Valley and Tri-City with the first pitch schedule for noon, which will be followed by Foothill versus Bear River at 3 p.m. Play resumes Sunday when the loser of Auburn versus Rocklin battles the loser of Sierra Foothill versus Nevada City at noon. The loser of Foresthill versus Bear River will play an opponent (TBD) at 3 p.m. Sunday wraps up with the winner of Sierra Foothills versus Nevada City playing the winner of Grass Valley versus Tri-City at 6 p.m.
The 9-10 Minor All-Star tournament will be played at Western Gateway Park in Penn Valley for the Area 2 bracket and at Rocklin’s Twin Oaks Community Park for the Area 1 bracket. Nevada City faces off with Grass Valley in the opening round at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Western Gateway Park. In Monday’s action, Bear River plays Tri-City at 5 p.m. at Twin Oaks Community Park in Rocklin. The Penn Valley All-Stars will await the winner of Foresthill versus Sierra Foothills and play at 5 p.m. Monday at Western Gateway Park. The loser of the Grass Valley versus Nevada City game will play the loser of the Foresthill vs. Sierra Foothills match up at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Western Gateway Park.
For information on brackets, times, locations, etc. visit District 11’s Little League wesibte at http://district11llb.com/Org/Home.aspx?d=%2fu%2f6doMHH0ha0ZJGKOBLoQ%3d%3d.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, email email@example.com or call 530-4774234.