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Coming off an impressive showing at the District 1 tournament, the White Rock 11-12 All-Stars feel confident heading into the state tournament.
White Rock will have a ways to go, however, if it wants to get to the finals.
The state tournament starts Saturday in Los Lunas with White Rock taking on Las Vegas in a play-in game. Should White Rock get through Saturday’s 10 a.m. contest, it will take on the host squad Sunday.
White Rock manager Joe Mang said it will be a long road for his squad, so it will need every advantage it can get. First and foremost will be staying on the winner’s side of the bracket as long as possible.
“It can wear down pitching early,” Mang said of the loser’s bracket. “I don’t know anything about Las Vegas except that it’s a smaller district, like ours. For the play-in game, that’s probably the best match-up we could hope for.”
The tournament will continue through at least July 26 and possibly through July 27.
White Rock will throw Jared Mang in its first game.
Mang came up big for White Rock during the district tournament, held last week at Santa Fe. He threw four innings of shutout ball in the tournament semifinals against Española Valley — a nip-and-tuck contest until the final inning — to help secure a spot in the finals.
Española Valley bounced back to beat Los Alamos in the loser’s bracket before falling to White Rock again in the championship, 11-9.
In the district final, Brandon Hodges struck out Española Valley’s most dangerous hitter, Chris Martinez, with the bases loaded and one out in the final inning.
White Rock, which also boasts a strong top-to-bottom lineup, has eight players with pitching experience. Coach Mang said he was hoping not to have to use more than two of his starters against Las Vegas.
Mang thought those tough games to secure the District 1 title will only help the squad at state.
“We had good competition at the district level,” he said. “Hopefully that will help up raise our level of play going into state.”
To combat the heat the squad will likely encounter at the tournament, White Rock has tried to vary its practice starting times throughout its 10 days of preparation, going to work out several times at the hottest parts of the day.