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Prineville hosted the Little League juniors baseball state tournament, which began Saturday and wraps up this week.

PMG PHOTO: LON AUSTIN - Pablo Solis of Jefferson County looks to corral ball as a La Grande runner attempts to steal second base, during the teams' July 23 contest at Davidson Field in Prineville. Jefferson County won the game 10-9.

Davidson Field, one of the oldest continuous-use ballparks in America, played host to Little Leaguers from around the state this past weekend in Prineville.

The Junior League Baseball state tournament began Saturday, July 23, in Prineville, with Crook County Little League hosting the event. The JLB is the second-highest level of Little League baseball, with players ranging from 12 to 14 years old. Six teams — including one from California — made up the tournament field, and after two days of tournament action, three of them still have a chance to hoist the state title banner.

Games started bright and early Saturday morning, as District 2 champion East County took on District 8 winners Del Norte, the only California team in the bracket. While East County hails from Troutdale, Del Norte is located 20 miles south of the Oregon-California border in Crescent City. But the out-of-staters have found Prineville to be a suitable home away from home.

Del Norte demolished East County in the opener, winning by a score of 21-1 to advance to the next round. In the following game, District 3 champs La Grande outlasted the joint team from West Salem/South Salem, which won the District 7 title to make it to Davidson Field, for an 11-6 victory.

Saturday's action rolled into the afternoon, where Del Norte laid down another 21-1 beating — this time, on District 1 champion Wilsonville. The final game of the day was also the most exciting, as Jefferson County, the kings of District 5, came back to beat La Grande in a 10-9 thriller.

As Sunday rolled around, so too did the elimination games. La Grande quickly made up for its Saturday loss by clobbering East County in yet another 21-1 game; it was the third time in five games that this exact score line showed up. The next game was an even bigger mismatch, as West Salem/South Salem defeated Wilsonville in a 29-1 rout. With those results, East County and Wilsonville were eliminated.

Back in the championship bracket, Del Norte made yet another statement by beating Jefferson County 13-3 in just five innings. That win put the Californians directly into the championship round. Then, in the final game Sunday evening, La Grande eliminated the joint Salem squad with a 8-7 win in a rematch of each team's opening contest.

The state tournament continues today, Monday, July 25, with Jefferson County (1-1) taking on La Grande (3-1) in the consolation final at 2:30 p.m., with the winner advancing to face Del Norte (3-0) in the championship round at 5:30 p.m. If Del Norte wins the first game of the championship round, the out-of-state squad will be crowned state champions on the spot. On the other hand, if Del Norte were to lose Monday night, then a winner-take-all contest would be played tomorrow, Tuesday, July 26, at 9 a.m. on Davidson Field.

The winner of the state tournament will advance to the Junior League Baseball West Region tournament in Bend next month, Aug. 4-11, at Caldera High School. The winner of that event moves on to the Junior League Baseball World Series, held Aug. 14-21 at Heritage Park in Taylor, Michigan, where the finals have been played since the tournament's inception in 1981.


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