Softball is set to take center stage at Lykins Park.
The Little League State Softball Tournament, featuring 12 teams in three age divisions, will be held Saturday-Wednesday. The opening ceremony and tournament kickoff, which ushers in the five-day event, is set for 6 tonight at Lykins Park.
Four teams — Stan Spence, North Laurel, North Oldham and Marion County — will compete in the 9-and-10-year-old division, while North Oldham and Red River, based in Powell County, will play a best-of-three series in the 10-11 division. In the 11-12 division, Winchester, Russell-Flatwoods, Louisville Valley Sports, Lewis County, Washington County and Phelps make up the six teams in the round-robin field.
“I think it’s going to be a good tournament,” Winchester and tournament director Jennifer Miles said. “It’s going to be very competitive.”
The championship games in the 9-10 and 11-12 divisions are set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lykins Park. If needed, a third game between North Oldham and Red River will be played at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Little League baseball
Winchester decided against having all-star teams and will review the status of resuming fielding those teams on a yearly basis. Because of demographics and the size of the community, Winchester Little League has two charters, but will reapply for a single charter next year through Little League International in Williamsport, Pa.
“They forced us to have two teams (American and National) out of each age group and in the 11-12 division, we have six teams, so you can imagine what an all-star team would look like with only six teams (in the league),” Smith said. “We’ve had a ton of parents wanting to have just one team. We tried to get one (charter) and the answer came back no.¿We don’t have any coaches that want to coach it and you just can’t be competitive. We’re hoping this will force the hand so that they will make some changes that will allow everybody to have one charter.”
In the past, Winchester has had more players to choose from in the 11-12-year-old division between two leagues — American and National — with six teams in each division. This past season, only three teams were field in each league.
“The number (of teams) has declined for whatever reason,” Winchester Little League board member Charlie Eury said. “All of the sudden instead of six teams to make up a team, you have three teams to make up (an all-star) team. The pool has gone way down.”
Smith said money and competitive issues played a role in the board’s unanimous decision not to field baseball all-star teams this season. In addition to uniforms, the cost per team to enter the all-star tournament is $125 per team in addition to sending Little League International a fee for fielding a team. The team that hosts the tournament also receives a fee from each participating squad. The overall cost involved in the past averaged $1500 per season.
“It’s like we go (into a tournament) and we have no shot,” Smith said. “It’s extremely expensive to have an all-star team. You play two of three games and then go to the house, plus they have to buy a uniform, which is $75-80 dollars. We just didn’t think it was fair on the parents to spend that kind of money.”
The league held all of its championship games on June 23, which included a home run derby and a double-elimination tournament instead of fielding all-star teams.
“We did well,” Eury said.