Kemmerer Little League Majors turn heads at Bear Lake Tourney

Kemmerer pitcher Brenden Dunford fires a pitch towards the plate during Friday’s 11-2 loss to Preston, Idaho, at the Bear Lake Little League Tournament in Montpelier, Idaho. Kemmerer finished 1-1-2 for the tournament, with a win over Minico and a tie against Bear Lake. (GAZETTE PHOTO/Don Cogger)

All-Stars beat Minico, tie Bear Lake before falling to Preston

The Kemmerer Little League Majors All-Stars may have been one of the smallest teams at last weekend’s Bear Lake Little League Tournament, but that didn’t stop them from making their presence felt at the Bear Lake County Fairgrounds.

Led by coaches Jake Parks and Dan Salo, the Kemmerer squad opened pool play Thursday with a 7-3 win over the Minico Braves, and followed that with an 8-8 tie against host Bear Lake.

In the final game of pool play Friday morning, Kemmerer fell to Preston, Idaho, 11-2, setting up a rematch with Minico in the first round of bracket play. Minico was able to exact a measure of revenge, sending the Majors home with a 15-5 loss.

“I thought the weekend went great,” Parks said. “I thought we played really well on Thursday. We came up against a tough team in Preston on Friday, and had a pretty good showing against Minico for our bracket game. The kids did their best. Minico brought out their big guns, but we competed and held our own, so I was very proud of our boys.”

This year’s roster included Dominic Archibald, Brenden Dunford, Carter Erickson, Carson Evans, Harrison Hartmann, Hudson Hartmann, Wyatt Miller, Wren Parks, West Ritter, Levi Rudy, Jaxson Salo, Casen Shelton and Hudson Shelton.

“It takes a little while to get the players to work together,” Parks explained. “To be selfless. When that starts happening, that’s the real reward of playing with the All-Stars. The kids had a great time at the tournament – it’s just a big baseball festival for kids, and that’s a lot of fun.”

Unlike many of the All-Star teams at Beal Lake this weekend, Kemmerer had little experience playing together as a team before taking the field, according to Parks. That didn’t stop them from putting forth their best effort each and every game.

“The Bear Lake Tournament was our first tournament,” Parks said. “I think we played six games before that, scrimmages with Bridger Valley, Green River, Rock Springs.”

“For me, the best part is to see the boys excited,” he added. “To see them rise to the challenge of playing really good players from larger towns, towns where the level of competition is greater than what they’re accustomed to. To see them putting their best effort forward, and lifting each other up and being happy at the end of the game, win or lose.”

Salo agreed.

“It was a real honor to coach such a fine group of young men,” he said. “They really worked hard through all the practices, showing up to all the games. At the Bear Lake Tournament — for being such a small team — they did a really good job getting seeded No. 5 in the bracket. It was a hard draw facing such a tough team, and the kids did really well.”

Salo went on to say what impressed him the most was the way the team bought in almost immediately, despite just a few weeks of practice time together.

“Ours was a team that was kind of thrown together at the last minute, and we went up against some really large teams that have been playing together for two months already,” Salo explained. “We were literally pulling kids out of the pond at the golf course to make an All-Star team. From the very first practice, we had five kids show up, and we were doing the basic fundamentals of baseball. Towards the end, we’re at the Bear Lake Tournament — a major event — and they make a splash in the tournament by beating a really tough team. That makes you feel pretty good, as a coach. They came so far in such a short time.”