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HAPPY TO PLAY: La Grande's Cody McKague (left) and Taylor McIntosh celebrate after winning the District 3 championship last week. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).
HAPPY TO PLAY: La Grande's Cody McKague (left) and Taylor McIntosh celebrate after winning the District 3 championship last week. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande's 11- and 12-year-old baseball all-stars are relaxed and ready to compete this weekend at the Little League state tournament in Salem.

"We've just tried to keep them relaxed," said manager Todd Nice before Thursday's practice at Pioneer Park.

"We just have some fun," coach Doug Homan added.

The team will be plenty rested. La Grande won the District 3 title last Saturday with a 3-2 win over Pendleton. Its opponent this Saturday will be the District 6 champion from south central Oregon, but that winner won't be determined until today in Klamath Falls.

La Grande plays at 3 p.m. Saturday at Salem's Holland Field. A win would put it into a 2 p.m. Sunday game, but a loss would make the team play at 5 p.m. Sunday in the double-elimination tournament.

All games after Sunday are at 7 p.m. The championship game is Thursday, with a second game if necessary a week from today.

Most of La Grande's players are 12, except for Zach Nice, Woody Stockoff and Kevin Boyd, who are 11. Those three were on the 9-10-year-olds all-star team last year, and six of the other nine were on the 11-12-year-olds all-star team a year ago.

The 12-year-olds are Richie Carmichael, Chris Estes, Josh Homan, Ammon Kohler, Taylor McIntosh, Cody McKague, Anthony Nice, Taylor Workinger and Tyler Zacharias.

As far as pitchers go, the coaches aren't sure who they will throw. Six of the players can pitch, a healthy amount for a team with 12 kids.

"We're very deep in the pitching," Doug Homan said. "That was definitely the difference in Enterprise."

"The three kids that we pitched (in Enterprise) were as good as any of the other teams' No. 1 kids," Todd Nice said.

La Grande has a District 3 reputation to uphold this weekend. Pendleton was second at last year's state tournament and third in 2000. Baker City was second in 1999. The only state championship won by a District 3 team by Ontario in 1962.

The last time La Grande went to the state tournament was in 1995, when it finished fourth.

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