(Update: adding video, new info, comments from players, coaches)
Six teams will be battling for a state title
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Several Central Oregon Little League teams will be competing for state championships this weekend after winning their district titles. NewsChannel 21 caught up with players and coaches from two of those teams on Wednesday.
They included the Bend North boys' 11-U squad. They won the District 5 championship last weekend, and now head to Scappoose for the state tournament, which starts Saturday.
"It's really cool to get this opportunity to represent all of Central Oregon, which is a pretty big place," said the team's catcher, Carter Larson.
Like all of the other teams, their path to glory is not easy, but it is simple. Win four games, and they take home the state title.
When asked if Bend North was going to win it all, center fielder Kade Kriz replied, "Yes, we are."
Head Coach Brett Hartlaub said the team's motto this year is "Bend, Don't Break."
"So obviously, it's a play on the town's name," Hartlaub said. "At the same time, when we're up and we're in a positive situation, we still don't want to bend. We want to continue to stay on the gas. If we're down and having a tough situation, we will bend, but we won't break. We won't give up."
In 2018, Hartlaub also coached the Bend North 11-U team, which won the state tournament. One of Hartlaub's sons was on that team -- and now his younger son, Ryker, is on the 2021 team.
Ryker is using his brother's championship run as motivation.
"Yeah, because he has bragging rights over me -- and I want those," he said.
The 11-U Division ends at the state level. However, the 12-U Division has a shot at the Little League World Series. The Bend North team made it all the way there in 2016.
That's where the Crook County team hopes to end up.
“You would be on ESPN,” said Crook County’s first baseman, Brodie Nash. “You would be, like, the coolest kid ever in your school."
Team Manager Craig Yustat echoed that enthusiasm.
“It’s just something I would love to experience,” he told NewsChannel 21. “As a kid, I dreamt of playing on ESPN and (at) Williamsport. I didn’t get there, but it doesn’t mean my dream can’t still be alive, and come back as either a parent or a coach.”
A lot would need to happen, though, before that dream becomes a reality. They would have to win state, and then come in first or second place in regionals.
A team from Crook County has never made it all the way to Williamsport. This group, though, has already made history, as the first in the 12-U age bracket in Crook County to reach the state tournament since 1993.
So maybe this year, it's meant to be.
Several other local teams are also playing for a state Little League title: 10-U Bend North, the Bend South softball minors (8-10), the Bend South softball majors (10-12) and the 14-U South Central Oregon, the team representing La Pine and Sunriver. Also, the Warm Springs Nation (14-U) already placed second in its softball state tournament.