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Section all-star tourneys shorter, riskier

Teams try to balance pitching while avoiding losers’ bracket
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Try to save pitching, but don’t overlook an opponent either. Scout the competition, but don’t become intimidated.

And by all means, avoid the losers’ bracket.

The next stage of Little League baseball’s postseason begins Saturday with the first round of the Section 4 Tournaments, and the Roseville area has a dog in every hunt: 9- and 10-year-olds, 11-year-olds, Major, Junior and Senior.

A deep pitching staff and hard-hitting lineup from one through nine can win a team a championship and a berth at the next level in three games, but the section level also harbors as many side effects as the latest cholesterol medication.

Lakeside’s Major all-star team overcame two losses to Woodcreek — in pool play and the championship round — by beating Woodcreek twice in the title games of the District 54 tournament.

For the section tournament — a sprint compared to District 54’s marathon — Lakeside drew what is akin to a play-in game against District 5 Sunrise at 5 p.m. Saturday at McBean Park in Lincoln. The other three teams can win the title in three games. It would take the Lakeside-Sunrise winner a minimum of four, and the championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Fortunately for Lakeside, it’s loaded with pitching, including starters Darren Nelson, Jacob Baranowski and Matt Voelker, and quality arms in Brett Walston and Alex Dailey.

“We know what we have to do to succeed, which is to try to balance our pitching and have enough in reserve but not assume we’re going to beat anybody and go soft on pitching,” Lakeside manager Steve Dailey said. “We do have confidence in a bunch of our guys. The question will be how can we balance those three horses we have?”

Dailey has plans — A, B and C — which include holding some pitchers to fewer than 35 or 20 pitches to keep them eligible the following game and trying to avoid the maximum 85-pitch outing … and more.

Of course, if Dailey has to reach even deeper for another plan …

“We’re blessed with a strong hitting team,” he said. “Hitting solves a lot of problems with your pitching.”

Like Lakeside, Woodcreek’s 9/10 team had to win twice in the championship to advance, including a rally in the final inning of the deciding game.

Woodcreek now plays host to the section tournament at home: Mahany Field.
On top of that, Woodcreek drew a bye and will have a chance to watch the other four teams play before it opens at 5 p.m. Sunday against the Tri-City/Cosumnes River winner.

That’s an advantage.

“We’re going to get to see their pitchers, who they end up burning,” Woodcreek manager Mike Watari said.

Then again …

“The disadvantage is boys can see the other teams may have some monsters,” Watari said. “They could get intimidated.”

Watari also stressed the importance of playing one game at a time. A team caught looking ahead can earn a quick trip to the losers’ bracket, which would mean five games in five days and even six games in six days if that team were to come back to win the championship.

“I’ve seen it happen before,” Watari said. “You can’t look ahead. You have to play for that one game. When you get to the championship game, you have to beat that team twice. That’s not an easy task by any means.”

James Penn’s Woodcreek Junior team learned last year after losing its opener and fighting back to the title game. But after blowing away the field in the District 54 tournament last week, Woodcreek plans to keep rolling along.

“We’re not going to change anything,” he said.

LITTLE LEAGUE SECTION 4 ALL-STAR TOURNAMENTS

FIRST-ROUND SCHEDULES
Senior (at American River College):
Woodcreek vs. District 6 champion, 8 p.m. Saturday. If Woodcreek wins, it would play at 8 p.m. Monday; if it loses Saturday, it would play at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Junior (at C-Bar-C Park in Citrus Heights): Woodcreek vs. Tri-City, 8 p.m. Saturday. If Woodcreek wins, it would play at 8 p.m. Monday; if it loses Saturday, it would play at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Major (at McBean Park in Lincoln): Lakeside vs. Sunrise, 5 p.m. Saturday. If Lakeside wins, it would play Land Park Pacific at 5 p.m. Sunday; if it loses Saturday, it would play at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

11-year-olds (at Stonehouse Park in Rancho Murieta): Roseville West vs. District 5 champion, 1 p.m. Saturday. If Roseville West wins, it would play at 5 p.m. Monday; if it loses Saturday, it would play at 2 p.m. Sunday.

9/10-year-olds (at Mahany Field): Woodcreek vs. Tri-City/Cosumnes River winner, 5 p.m. Sunday. If Woodcreek wins, it would play at 7:30 p.m. Monday; if it loses Sunday, it would play at 5 p.m. Monday.