State softball tournament to start today

July 26, 2001|By JON HINSHAW, Sports Writer

Last year the fledgling Imperial Valley Babe Ruth girls softball league took all-stars to Lodi for the Pacific Southwest regional tournament, the lone hurdle before a trip to the World Series.

While last year's 12- and 16-and-under teams didn't reach the big series, this season they have some incentive — they are playing in front of the home crowd.

Beginning at 6 tonight on Legion Field in Calexico, the 12-and-under all-stars will get another chance to earn a trip to the World Series in Pine Bluff, Ark. The all-stars, players from Brawley, Calexico, El Centro and Holtville, will be facing California squads from Concord, Riverdale and Lodi and Arizona teams from Avondale and Yuma.

The 16-and-under all-stars will follow with their own Pacific Southwest regional event beginning Aug. 2 at the same location. Competition will be among teams from the Imperial Valley, Avondale, Yuma and Hawaii.


Babe Ruth regional commissioner Sandra Mendoza is excited about the tournaments and thinks both the Imperial Valley and its all-stars are ready.

"Scheduling-wise everything is going well," said Mendoza, the state commissioner last year. "The City Council of Calexico has really stepped up in hosting this event for locals and for the visitors. They've repainted and fixed the fencing at the field. They wanted to make sure everyone saw a good park. Everything is coming together and I believe our girls stand a good chance at going (to the World Series)."

Through Saturday, three games will be played each night on Legion Field, at 6, 8 and 10 p.m. The late start for the final game was a mandate from the Babe Ruth national headquarters for the regional tournament to be completed before Sunday's start of the World Series. The squad that wins the regional will be flying Sunday morning to Pine Bluff.

"They'll be OK. Softball goes by a lot faster than baseball," said Mendoza. "We were told to do it this way. The organization is still young and as it grows it will become more streamlined."

The 16-and-under group will compete at 7 and 9 p.m. nightly through Aug. 5, with the winner advancing to Abbeville, La., for the World Series.

The number of Imperial Valley teams jumped from six squads last year to eight this season, with Mendoza predicting even more teams joining next year.

"It was a good experience that first year," said Mendoza, who oversees the states of California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam. "We added two extra teams this year, so it's definitely growing down here. The whole region is growing."

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