By Ray Hamill — The McKinleyville Little League All-Stars are getting ready for a big weekend, with both the 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds opening their respective state tournaments on Saturday morning.
Both teams qualified for the prestigious tourneys after clinching their Section championships earlier this week and both will carry plenty of momentum and confidence into the weekend.
Both teams have also been clutch through the postseason, with each of them winning four straight elimination games on their way to the section championships.
And they’re also winning with a balanced lineup.
With their backs to the walls this week, they knocked off previously unbeaten Susanville twice in the Section tournament, with eight different players accounting for their eight team hits in game one and seven different players combining for 10 hits in game two.
“They showed up ready to play, knowing they had the ability to get the job done,” manager Patrick Green said. “They just continue to believe in themselves and it’s impressive to watch.”
Team defense also has been key in their successful run through the playoffs, with center fielder Carson Hicks making some incredible catches to help inspire his team, and catcher Cabella Carper anchoring the defense behind the plate.
Offensively, Tate Saso has been arguably the team’s most consistent bat, while Hacher Matson exploded for three home runs at the Section tournament, the first-ever homers in his All-Star career.
The big bat of Talon Turner also has been key, while Maccoy Rickson had a breakout game offensively and defensively at the Section tournament.
So too did Becker Rine on the mound, with a very strong pitching performance in a must-win game against Susanville.
The 12s open their state tournament at Watsonville on Saturday at 11 a.m.
If they win, they will advance to the West Region tournament in San Bernardino, with the winner of that tournament advancing to the Little League Wold Series in Williamsport.
The 8-10s, meanwhile, will travel to Turlock, where they will open on Saturday against the Landpark All-Stars out of Sacramento at 10 a.m.
McKinleyville has plenty of options on the mound, with either Breyden Brock or Hudson Kapko to get the start in game one and the very impressive Teoh Arredondo ready for game two, win or lose.
The timely return of Jared Brunner behind the plate was a key factor in the team’s success at the Section tournament after he missed the District championship through injury.
Offensively, the Mack bats appear to be coming around, with the team scoring 18 runs in their Section championship win over Chico Westside.
Five different players had multiple hits in the victory, including Colton Hawkes and Liam Currell, each of whom impressed at the plate this week.
If the 10s win, they will be crowned Northern California champs.
California is one of only two states, along with Texas, to hold two state championships.