Westside Little League to host state finals

By The Union Democrat Sports Department July 23, 2014 12:00 am

The Westside Little League and Jerry Whitehead Sr. Field in Tuolumne will be home to the Northern California State Baseball Tournament Finals.

The week-long event, which starts on Saturday with opening ceremonies set for 11 a.m., is trademarked with Little League Baseball, Inc. in Williamsport, Pa., and is the last stop for the 9- to 10-year-old division. 

This will mark the first time in Westside Little League history that it will host the state finals.

“We’re very excited because we been trying for so long to have this tournament in Tuolumne,” said Westside Little League President Donnie Wright. “It took a lot of work from our board. It was very difficult.”

Wright said his league, which oversees teams from the Soulsbyville, Twain Harte and Tuolumne areas, has been trying for more than 20 years to sponsor this prestigious tournament, but the timing was never right.

Northern California has over 30 districts split into seven sections, and the finals are drawn and rotated yearly.

“The chance of us having to host this game again won’t be until another 10 to 15 years,” Wright said.

Because the field fence at Jerry Whitehead Sr. Field is only 190 feet — the regulation size is 200 — Westside had to get a special waiver approved by Little League Baseball in order to host the event.

Seven championship teams, each representing their sections, will compete at this year’s tournament.

The opening game is scheduled for a 9 a.m. first pitch on Saturday with other matches following at noon and 3 p.m. There will be games every day of the week, and there is no cost to attend.

The championship tilt, to determine the Northern California crown, is set for Saturday, Aug. 2.

“The field was built in the 1950s for Little League, and now, seeing it used in the state tournament — part of Little League — is to me a high point and to everyone on the board,” Wright said. “It shows our dedication to Little League and gives everybody an experience to see some pretty good 9- and 10-year-olds play some baseball.”