Last year’s Little League District I Tournament was an eye-opener for the Kodiak junior all-star softball team.
In the league’s first softball all-star tournament in a decade, the islanders went 1-3 and were outscored 72-33 — 32 of those runs came in the team’s lone victory over Dimond-West.
“The teams were a lot better than us,” said Hailee Wallace. “It was new. We weren’t ready for it but it was a lot of fun.”
Wallace is one of seven returning girls who were on last year’s team; Hannah Stewart, Britney Llorente, Kyla Pineda, Emily Larson, Ashlyn Bolen and Shanoah Spear are the others. The team begins District I pool play July 2 at Nunaka Valley.
“We are preparing the other girls for the pitchers,” Wallace said. “It is a lot different than Little League.”
Wallace has a different story than her 13 teammates. The Kodiak resident attends Mt. Edgecumbe High School, a boarding school in Sitka. She just completed her freshman year and played volleyball and wrestled for the Braves. The 3A classification school does not have a softball program, so Wallace — Kodiak’s oldest all-star — was eager to hit the diamond when she returned home in early May. She played half the season with Kodiak Little League. This is her third season overall in softball.
“Ever since I started playing, it has been my favorite sport,” said Wallace, who will catch and play the outfield for the all-star team. “I just love softball. I’m going to be really sad that I can’t play next year. I’m going to ask the coaches if I can help with practices to still be involved.”
The Junior Little League is a program for players 12-14. Kodiak had around 32 players split into three teams. The best players from each team were picked for the all-star squad.
“They are all eager and excited. They are all having fun,” first-year Kodiak all-star coach Bryan Larson said. “They all want to be here, which is a little bit different than the regular season.”
The team has been practicing for three hours a night in preparation for the tournament that concludes July 6. The winner represents District I at the state tournament that begins July 9. The state champion advances to the regional tournament in Tucson, Arizona, on July 17.
Only two Kodiak Little League teams have ventured outside after winning state crowns — the 1982 Major baseball and the 2004 Senior baseball teams.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to come out here,” Larson said.
The coach said the team will rely on its pitchers and defense to carry them through the tournament. Spear — younger sister of high school pitcher Leslie Spear — anchors the pitching staff that, Larson said, is better than last year’s team. Danica Howell, a newbie to the sport, is Kodiak’s other hurler.
“She (Spear) has been doing a lot of work with the pitching coach for the high school,” Larson said. “That will increase our chances a little bit.”
The rest of the team consists of Addalina Haagensen, Lakeisha Sanchez, Aliesha Miranda, Alyssa Agmata, Krixhanee Diesta and Eva Wolfe. Larson is assisted by Curtis Howell.
“We just want to have fun and be competitive,” Larson said.