Never-say-die attitude lifts Eel River All-Stars to District title

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Action from last week’s District championship game.

By Ray Hamill — The Eel River 11U All-Stars showed a lot of character on their way to a District championship at the Redwood Fields in Cutten last week.

The young players had to dig deep in an exciting championship showdown against Redwood Empire, battling back from an early deficit to win 6-5 in eight innings.

It was the second straight one-run win for the Eel River players and their third victory in three tournament games.

“They just never give up,” head coach Hannah Jones said of her players. “They see that it’s never over till it’s over, and they’re really buying into that.”

Several players stepped up for Eel River, which also defeated Arcata 8-4 in the team’s tournament opener.

The Eel River players would follow that with a 2-1 win over Redwood Empire the next day to send them into the championship round.

RELL would bounce back to beat McKinleyville 4-0 in an elimination game and set up a rematch for the championship.

And the Redwood Empire players pushed Eel River all the way in both of their matchups.

“It was wonderful to get to play them,” Jones said of Redwood Empire. “They were a super awesome opponent. It was such a great game.”

With the championship on the line, however, it was Eel River that stepped up to secure the thrilling win, and they did it with a little help from all 12 of their players.

“It was a team effort for sure,” the coach said. “I told them, every single player played a part in that win.”

The team also was inspired by the legend of one of Humboldt County’s greatest ever coaches.

Jones, who played for Frank Cheek at Humboldt State (now Cal Poly Humboldt), says he played a huge role in her career and she often talks to her Eel River players about him and his approach to the game.

“Everything I learned trickled down from him,” she said. 

Jones added that the players have made a tremendous amount of progress in the month they have been practicing and playing together, including their mental approach to the game.

And that showed on the march to the District championship and the manner in which they battled back in the championship game.

She also praised the players’ attitude at practice.

“They have a great time,” she said. “Their energy is pretty amazing.”

The winning team included Chris Jones, Scott Oldham, Ryder Sweeny, Jayce Conley, Eli Albee, Bryson Maniaci, Chance Varela, Ryker Braud, Wyatt Shaw, Bo Stacey, Dominic Lanza and Ranaan Bruckner.

Kyle Conley and Mark Williams are the team’s assistant coaches.

The Eel River All-Stars will now turn their attention to the Section tournament, which will take place in Redding from July 13-17.

Submitted photo

Leave a Reply