By Ray Hamill — The top eight local Little League teams will face off at the Redwood Fields in Cutten this weekend, as the district Tournament of Champions returns for the first time since 2019.
The action gets under way on Saturday morning at 9 a.m., when Arcata plays Redwood Empire No. 2, and opening day will feature four games in total.
The tournament continues with two semifinals on Sunday and a championship showdown on Monday evening at 6 p.m.
It marks the beginning of a busy few weeks for local Little League teams, with three all-star tournaments in late June/early July, as well as a 12-year-old section tournament to be hosted in the area later in July.
This weekend, McKinleyville and RELL No. 1 appear to be the teams to beat and could meet in a semifinal at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, providing they can win their opening games.
But as RELL President Russell Thacker said, it’s really anyone’s tournament.
“The nice thing about 12-year-old boys is anyone can really win,” he said. “Because 12-year-olds are very fickle. One day they show up and play like all-stars and the next they show up and play like 12-year-olds.”
One thing everyone can agree on is that it’s great to have the tournament back again after the pandemic forced a cancelation last summer.
“I think the kids are happy to be back, and I think the parents are happy to have the kids doing something outdoors again,” Thacker said. “Overall the support has been very good. It’s been very well received.”
The tournament features the champions of the six local leagues, as well as two second-placed teams chosen in a random draw.
Saturday’s games also include Eel River No. 1 against Klamath Trinity at 11:30 a.m., Redwood Empire No. 1 and Southern Humboldt at 2 p.m., and McKinleyville and Eel River No. 2 at 4:30 p.m.
“I’m just happy we’re playing baseball and hopefully it goes smooth and we have some close games,” Thacker said.
Two of the three local all-star tournaments will begin on June 26, with Arcata hosting the 10-year-olds and McKinleyville hosting the 11s.
The 12-year-old tournament will be hosted by Eel River and begins on July 2.
The winner of the district 12-year-old tournament will then host the section tournament.