As the Little League all-star season gets ready to get going in earnest this weekend, teams in Los Banos have been busy preparing. And the local coaches are pretty confident.
“We’re looking pretty good,” said Mike Lopez, coach of the Los Banos 12-year-old team. “We finally got all 13 kids to show up all at one practice – we had a couple on vacation. We’re a pretty stacked team. It’s going to be tough setting that lineup.”
John Cook, manager of the 11-year-old team, expressed similar sentiments.
“We have a lot of pitching, and the way practices have been going, all 13 of them can hit,” Cook said. “It’s pretty impressive, really. We look real solid, defense and offense wise. It should be an interesting week.”
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The 12-year-olds have a first-round bye, then play the winner of a Saturday game at 10 a.m. on Sunday in Turlock. The 11-year-olds open the tournament at 6 p.m. on Monday at Turlock American, and the 10-year-olds open all-star play against Mariposa at 1 p.m. on Monday in Atwater. The only first-round game in Los Banos is the seniors (13-to-15-year-olds), against Turlock National at 6 p.m. on Monday.
The intermediate team (which played on a bigger field than the 12-year-olds and younger, but still smaller than regulation size) played its tournament last weekend, going 1-2 and losing in the championship. Los Banos lost 6-3 in the opener to Turlock National, then bounced back to beat the same team 8-0 in the elimination bracket after Turlock National lost 15-6 to Mariposa. Los Banos then faced Mariposa in the championship, losing 21-10. If LB had won, it would have forced a winner-take-all championship rematch to finish the double-elimination bracket.
But the rest of the teams have the future to look to. For Cook, what has him confident is the excitement of his players.
“We don’t know who’s going to rotate, but everybody can play. It’s up to them now. We’ve practiced hard for two weeks,” Cook said. “They practice hard – in two hours of practice they’re focused. They are excited. You put that all-star uniform on, you should be proud.”
Lopez said his players are excited as well, especially with the prospect of playing Turlock, which won the District 73 tournament as 10-year-olds and 11-year-olds.
“If it’s Turlock we’re playing, we’ll get that big challenge in that first game,” Lopez said. “My attitude is if we win that first game, we’ll go to the championship for sure. That is my goal, to beat Turlock. I think a lot of the kids are jumping on board. I know my son (Xavier Uribes) was pumping a lot of the kids up at school. They’re tired of losing every year to Turlock.”