State Babe Ruth tournament to begin tonight

July 20, 2001|By JON HINSHAW, Sports Writer

Just when Imperial Valley baseball fans thought it was safe to take refuge from the heat and sit in air-conditioned comfort to watch their favorite teams, local Babe Ruth baseball will continue today with a 13-year-old state tournament.

Two local teams — Northend and El Centro — will vie with four others for the title and the honor of taking the next step on the road to the world series in Wilson County, N.C.

Northend, composed of players from Brawley, Calipatria and Westmorland, won the District 7 tournament in Brawley on July 8 over Sunset to earn a spot. El Centro finished third in the tournament, but by virtue of hosting the state tournament it got a bid. Opposing El Centro and Northend will be teams from Simi Valley, La Cañada, La Crescenta and West Torrance.

This year will be El Centro's second straight year hosting the double-elimination event, which will continue through Wednesday. The tournament is usually rotated throughout sites in California, but El Centro was able to land the event again after volunteering to host it last year at the last minute when Babe Ruth couldn't find a locale willing to host the tournament.


District 7 commissioner Eugene Mendoza was more than pleased to host the event again. Mendoza said it will give local fans some excellent baseball to watch and a chance to view Valley youngsters battle for a spot in the Pacific Southwest regional tournament in Visalia and ultimately a trip to the world series.

"I think it's going to be a very good tournament because all the teams coming in are district winners," said Mendoza. "They'll have their best coming in against ours."

The tournament will be played entirely at Stark Field in El Centro and will feature two games a night, first at 6 p.m. and followed by a second game at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday will be the only exception to the rule with only one game, played at 7 p.m.

Tonight's first game will feature Northend against Simi Valley. That contest will be immediately followed by an opening ceremony with all six teams to be introduced. El Centro and La Crescenta will then follow with the second game slated for 8:45 p.m. La Cañada and West Torrance will both receive first-round byes and will play the first-round winners Saturday.

El Centro, the only team in the tournament without a district title, is looking forward to the opportunity to get back into the thick of things. Mike Driscoll, who will be filling in as head coach with the absence of Steve Evangelist, thought El Centro's performance in the district tournament was not indicative of how capable a team it really is.

"I think we can come back because our pitching is ready to go," said Driscoll, whose team was riddled by injuries during the district event. "We weren't on against (Northend) but I thought we did good against (Sunset). Both of those teams were pretty even and we played them tough, but things just didn't go our way.

"The kids are pretty excited about this tournament tomorrow, though," he added. "I think we'll have an advantage because we're used to the heat and those other guys will be cooking."

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