Rapid City's four Little Leagues got a taste of tournament play last weekend with the annual city tournament.
They'll get a bigger bite this weekend with the two Sub-District tournaments at the Canyon Lake Complex.
Up for grabs are two teams that will qualify for next week's South Dakota State Tournament, also at Canyon Lake.
All-Star teams competing in the West River A bracket include Rushmore, Canyon Lake and Belle Fourche. Competing in the West River B bracket will be Spearfish, Harney, Timberline and Sturgis.
Actions begins Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in the B bracket as Harney takes on Spearfish, while Rushmore faces Canyon Lake at 5 p.m. in the A bracket. The final game of the day will be at 7:30 p.m. in the B bracket when Timberline plays Sturgis.
Belle Fourche received a first-round bye in the A bracket and will face the Rushmore-Canyon Lake winner Friday at 5 p.m.
South Dakota Little League District 1 Administrator Jason McGough said Little League is about the participation, but it gears up for these tournaments to cap off the season.
"Each league gets excited and gets behind their team, and it is really a community involvement," he said. "You'll see the crowds out, especially with the local teams."
The sub-district and state tournaments are rotated within the four leagues in Rapid City. McGough said it is a boost for the local league that hosts the tournament. The only money they get are from the concessions, but the league is on the stage to show off what its league has done with the complex and other improvements.
"It kind of makes them proud to show off to the other leagues that, 'Hey, here's what we have and hopefully we've been good hosts,' and move forward from there," he said.
Each all-star has to play in a minimum of 12 league games to qualify for tournament play. Most leagues have as much as 22-24 games, but most range between those numbers.
"They have done well, even with all of the rain. They'll get geared up for the tournament," he said.
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For the first time is several years, this will truly be a South Dakota state tournament, as North Dakota is sanctioned by the Little League to host its own tournament and thus qualify for the Midwest Regionals.
Last year, North Dakota had its own district tournament, but played the South Dakota champ — Canyon Lake — for the right to go to regionals. Fargo beat the Rapid City team 7-2 in Valley Springs and would go on to play in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
"This is exciting for both states," McGough said.
McGough also said that this year there were no new Little League charters, and no programs leaving. There are 14 Little Leagues in South Dakota.
Along with the two winners of the West River Sub-Districts, the two East River Sub-District winners — Brandon Valley and Capital City (Pierre) — will also be in Rapid City next week for the state tournament.
Brandon Valley defeated Sioux Falls for the East River B title, while Capital City topped Harrisburg for the A title. This will be the Pierre team's first trip to Rapid City.
"Last year we had the I-90 team and the year prior Sioux Falls. It's always exciting to see a new face," McGough said.
One new rule that possibly could be implemented for the sub districts or state tournament this year is the tiebreaker for extra innings. The teams will play a seventh inning (six innings is regulation) like normal, and if there is still no winner, the game will go to the eighth where both teams will start its half inning with a runner on second base.
That rule is a staple in many fastpitch softball leagues and has been used as an experiment in some professional minor leagues.
"That's the biggest new rule for the tiebreaker, just because they are younger kids and the game gets long, and they are trying to speed up the game a little bit," McGough said.
The tournament will continue Friday with semifinal action at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday's play will be consolation, with the winners of both games moving on to Sunday's finals and the game losers eliminated. Sunday's finals begin at noon for the B bracket and 2:30 for the A bracket. If it's the first loss for the loser of both title games, "if necessary" games will follow at 5 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.