WALLA WALLA — Baker Boyer Bank is back to defend the Walla Walla Little League All-City Championships baseball tournament title it won a year ago.
But the defending champs won’t necessarily be the favorite when the tournament commences Saturday with four first-round games beginning at 10 a.m. at the Valley League complex in Walla Walla’s Eastgate.
That role falls to Pacific League champion Tom’s Chevron, a three-time All-City champion that won back-to-back titles in 2010-11 before Baker Boyer claimed its fourth title in the 37-year history of the tournament in 2012.
Tom’s Chevron won this year’s Pacific League title with a 19-2 record and finished two games in front of Baker Boyer in the Pacific’s final regular-season standings. Tom’s lost to Baker Boyer 13-0 the first time the teams met during the regular season but rebounded to win the next two, 4-0 and 13-7.
Baker Boyer’s 17-4 record matches that of Cox-Jones Insurance and Banner Bank, who finished tied for the top spot in the Valley League standings. However, Cox-Jones enters Saturday’s play as the Valley’s No. 1 seed based on its winning record against Banner Bank during the regular season.
The top four teams from each league qualified for the All-City tourney.
Unlike recent years, when teams from the Touchet Valley League — which represents the communities of Waitsburg, Prescott and Dayton — participated in the tournament, there are no play-in games tonight to determine the eight quarterfinalists. Touchet Valley opted not to participate this year.
Valley No. 1 seed Cox-Jones has drawn the tournament-opening game at 10 a.m. against Coca-Cola Zero, which posted a 13-8 season record and is the No. 4 qualifier from the Pacific League. That game will be followed at 12:30 p.m. by Valley No. 2 seed Banner Bank vs. McDonald Zaring Insurance Agency, which logged a 13-7 record and is the No. 3 seed from the Pacific League.
Pacific No. 2 seed Baker Boyer Bank takes on Walla Walla Farmer’s Co-Op, the Valley League’s No. 3 seed with a 14-7 mark, at 3 p.m. And Pacific’s top-seeded Tom’s Chevron faces Pepsi-Cola, the Valley’s fourth seed, in the first-day finale at 5:30 p.m. Pepsi-Cola enters with an 11-10 record.
The tournament continues with semifinal contests Monday at 4 and 6:30 p.m. The winners of Saturday’s 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. games square off in the first semifinal, with the winners of the 12:30 and 5:30 p.m. games pitted in the second.
The tournament concludes with the championship game Wednesday, with the first pitch slated for 6 p.m.
Tom’s Chevron is in the tournament field for the 15th consecutive year. The last time Tom’s didn’t qualify was 1998.
Pepsi-Cola has qualified for a third consecutive year while Baker Boyer, Coca-Cola Zero and Banner Bank are back for a second straight year.
McDonald Zaring Insurance last appeared in the 2010 tournament and Cox-Jones and Farmer’s Co-Op are back for the first time since 2009.
Coca-Cola Zero, formerly the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, is making its 22nd appearance in the tournament and is still looking for its first title.
The only team with more All-City appearances is Valley League’s Mr. Ed’s, which qualified 24 times and won the championship a tournament record five times, including an unprecedented three consecutive titles beginning in 2005. Mr. Ed’s last qualified in 2011.
Tom’s Chevron qualified for the All-City 20 times prior to this year. Pepsi-Cola is making its 16th appearance, McDonald Zaring and Baker Boyer their 15th each, Banner Bank its 10th and Cox-Jones and Farmer’s Co-Op their ninth each.
Farmer’s Co-Op has won the tournament twice and McDonald Zaring once. Like Coca-Cola Zero, Cox-Jones, Banner Bank and Pepsi-Cola are each in pursuit of their first title.