All-Stars want to make most of home field
The best youth baseball players in Northern Nevada will be in South Lake Tahoe for the next week for the state Babe Ruth tournament, and the local squad is hoping to make some noise.
South Tahoe manager John Rice has coached most of the players on the team during All-Star play for the past two seasons. The team was eliminated after two wins both years, but playing at home could give South Tahoe enough of an edge to go further this time around.
“Most of the tournaments in our area are in Reno, Carson City or Sparks, and it’s always 20 degrees hotter down there,” Rice said. “You get in a car and drive for an hour, you get out of the car and it’s 102 degrees and you’re eating junk food all week.
“This time we’ll be sleeping in our own beds and playing on our own field. We know the bumps and breaks out there and we’ve been practicing with the sun in the late afternoon so we’re used to it.”
League president and tournament organizer Don Amaral said hosting a tournament was high on his priority list.
“Our board has been very active trying to get a tournament in order to give our players a chance to win,” Amaral said. “We always kind of sweltered in the heat down the hill. It’s a bigger disadvantage for us to go down there than for them to come up here.”
While Rice has a talented squad led by his son, Ian, vacations and other commitments have reduced his roster to 11 players. A key will be for the players to avoid injury, but pitching depth could become a problem if they go deep into the tournament.
Ian Rice will start the opening game against Carson City, which eliminated South Tahoe in the 14-Year-Old tournament last year. Catcher Elijah Townsend will shed the tools of ignorance to start the second game and Chris Diana will be the third pitcher.
“If we go all the way, we’ll really need three super-strong pitchers,” Rice said. “Most of these kids have pitched at some level, but only six of them pitched a lot this year. The key will be our defense. If we hold up and make the fundamental plays, we’ll be fine.”
Rice used the selection process to field the best defensive team possible, finding players who are comfortable at different positions.
“All these kids are good athletes and can play four or five positions, but we don’t want to move them around too much,” he said. “If you put a kid somewhere he hasn’t played since he was 13, there’s an adjustment period we can’t afford.”
The South Tahoe team should have little trouble scoring runs, as all 11 players are outstanding hitters. Ian Rice was the most dominant player in the local league and will bat second in an effort to get him more pitches to hit. Bo Hallam will lead off with a similar combination of power and speed, with the rest of the lineup filled with mashers.
“I’m trying to get my power and speed at the top of the lineup,” John Rice said. “When you put a guy in the cleanup spot, he usually gets pitched around. We have a great hitting team, so we can afford to play around with our lineup a bit.”
The double-elimination tournament will start with four games on Saturday and run through the championship game on Thursday. All games will be played at Todd Fields.