A group of Kodiak youths are set to make history on the diamond.
For the first time ever, Kodiak Little League is sending an intermediate all-star baseball team to the mainland to compete in the District I tournament that begins Monday in Knik.
Major and junior all-star squads normally represent Kodiak, but because of the lack of participation this season, the league had to do away with both those divisions. The intermediate division combines both major and junior players (11-through 13-year-olds).
The division, which was created by Little League in 2010, uses 70-foot base paths and a 50-foot pitching distance. And unlike in majors, runners are allowed to lead off the bases.
“All these guys are new to the idea of leading off base, pick-off moves and balks,” Kodiak all-star coach Bryan Ellsworth said. “It has been a real challenge to get those type of fundamentals engrained. They are picking it up and doing really well.”
Kodiak fielded three intermediate teams, and the Dark Lake Field had to be converted from major dimensions — 46-foot pitching distance and 60-foot base paths — to meet intermediate standards.
The top 12 players from the three teams were picked to represent Kodiak at the District I tournament. The team has been practicing twice a day for the past two weeks to prepare for play. The tournament features seven teams — Homer, Nunaka, Kodiak, Abbott-O-Rabbit, Dimond-West, Polar and Knik. Each team will play four games and the top four teams advance to the semifinals.
“It is going to hinge on good pitching. If we don’t walk people and play pretty good defense when the ball is hit to us — we don’t need to make a spectacular plays, we just need to make the routine play — I think we will do OK,” Ellsworth said.
Ellsworth said Kodiak has seven players who he can hand the ball to and will rely heavily on Nevin Lee and Thomas Evans.
On offense, several players hit home runs during the regular season including Anders Hocum and Lee.
“We have a little bit of power, but I think we have more speed,” Ellsworth said.
Lars Hanson, Jacob Horn, Nathan James, Taj DeVries, Ian Rocheleau, Jayden Pavloff, Garrick Schauff, Lucas Ellsworth and Micah Arndt round out the rest of Kodiak’s roster.
Ellsworth is no stranger to winning tournaments. He was on Rick Langfitt’s coaching staff when Kodiak won the senior Little League state title in 2004. He also helped with the high school team in 2005.
“I’ve traveled a little bit but have never been in charge of the whole group so it is going to be a new experience,” he said.
Kodiak begins play at 4:45 p.m. Monday against Dimond-West. Kodiak also plays Knik (July 8), Homer (July 9) and Polar (July 11).