As the Gastineau Channel Little League Senior (age 15-16) All-Stars and the Ketchikan All-Stars chomped on hamburgers during a pre-tournament picnic Wednesday night, GCLL coach Bill McCauley didn't seem worried that Ketchikan was the defending Southeast District champion.
"The past is the past," McCauley said. "I didn't even know who won last year."
The district tournament has opening ceremonies at 5 p.m. tonight at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, followed by the first game of the best-of-three-game series at 6 p.m. The second game is at 6 p.m. Friday, with an if-necessary game set for 6 p.m. on Saturday.
This weekend's Senior Division tournament kicks off a week of district Little League tourneys that will see most of Juneau's GCLL teams hitting the road to Sitka, Ketchikan and Petersburg.
The winner of the Senior Division district tournament receives an all-expense paid trip to Juneau on July 19-24 for the state tournament.
The Senior Division tournament features players who will be freshmen and sophomores in high school, and many of the Juneau players were on the GCLL Junior Division team that won last year's district tourney.
"I'm looking for good pitching and good defense this weekend," McCauley said. "We'll try to score runs anyway we can, but if we have good pitching we're in the game."
McCauley said he hopes to use as many pitchers as he can, but what's happening in the games will dictate how he uses them. His players have been on different squads during the Little League season, so they're just starting to gel as an all-star team.
"We need more practices, but we need games too," McCauley said.
Ketchikan coach Dick Leary said he has five players back from last year's team that won the Southeast District and took second at state. But he said the rest of his team is pretty young. While Juneau's squad was hurt by the rebirth of the American Legion program, which took some of the better Senior Division-age players, Leary said he lost three players to programs in the Lower 48.
"This group played together in high school, and that helps," Leary said. "But in our league, the 16-year-olds play with the 17s and 18s, while the 15-year-olds play with the 13s and 14s. A lot of the names have changed from last year, but they're still good players."
Leary said he appreciated McCauley's comment that things start with pitching and defense, but he's looking for a little more offense.
"Those 2-1 games are fine to win, but they give you a lot of gray hair," Leary said. "If a kid hits well, I'll try to find a place to hide him in the field so I can get his bat in the lineup."
In the other baseball divisions, the Junior League (age 13-14) district tournament is in Sitka starting Friday and ending next Thursday. The Major League (age 11-12) district tournament is in Petersburg July 15-24, and the Age 9-10 League district tournament is in Ketchikan July 18-25. The Junior League state tournament is in Sitka, with the other state tournaments taking place in Anchorage.
The state winners in each age group will advance to a series of Division tournaments around the Pacific Northwest, with the winners in those tournaments moving on to Regional tournaments and then their age group's World Series. Two years ago, Juneau's GCLL Junior Division team came within one game of reaching its age group's World Series and several players from that team are on this year's Senior Division team.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.