Los Toritos tourney draws loaded field to Star City

The Los Toritos Spring Break Tournament is set to begin on Thursday and will conclude on Monday. The tournament will feature eight teams and will have some Southeast Arkansas conference favorites playing in the field.

The event hosted by Star City will include the Bulldogs along with Pine Bluff, Junction City, Hamburg, Malvern, Parker’s Chapel, Monticello and Marked Tree. Every team is guaranteed three games with first-, third-, fifth- and seventh-place games taking place on Monday.

Star City (6-1, 3-0 in 8-4A) is the defending 8-4A champions and have had another strong start this season. Head coach Scott Johnson said he is proud of his players and the effort they have given so far.

“I am pleased with where we have started,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a good start and I’ve got a great group of kids that work really hard. So far, we have had some success with all of the hard work they have put in. We just have to keep improving with every game and continue to make progress. We can’t let our highs get too high or our lows get too low.”

Star City will take on Marked Tree on Friday at 8:30 p.m. in its first tournament game. Johnson said he is familiar with Marked Tree’s program and knows they will be a tough matchup.

“They won their conference last year,” Johnson said. “They have a quality program and I know one of their assistant coaches. He told me they wanted to come to the tournament, so we extended an invitation to them.”

Johnson said he enjoys participating in tournaments because it can help his team figure out how much depth they have overall.

“A tournament is big because it prepares you for down the road when you get into regionals,” he said. “When you get into tournament play, it’s not just one team’s best pitcher versus another team’s best pitcher. When you get into the second and third games, you have to see just how deep your pitching staff can go. It prepares you down the road for sure.”

Pine Bluff (4-2, 0-1) started off well to begin the season but has dropped two games in a row. The Zebras will try to correct things when they face Junction City at 7 p.m. Thursday in the tournament’s opening game

Head coach Ryan Stinson said it’s been tough, but knows they can make a turnaround.

“We just have to get better each and every day,” Stinson said. “We just have to stay focused and play our game. We just need to play good baseball and compete.”

Stinson said his team has a tough matchup with Junction City and knows they will get their best shot.

“I know in the past they have been state champions,” Stinson said of Junction City. “They are going to be very good. They will be well coached and they will come ready to play.”

Stinson also said he enjoys tournaments because it gives his kids a look at how other teams from different conferences play and that each game gives a chance for his kids to improve.

“Anytime you get a chance to play baseball you can always learn something,” Stinson said. “It doesn’t matter who it is. It doesn’t matter the competition because you still have to play the game. You can always learn something.

“There’s a pretty good field of teams down there even though there are some 3A and 4A teams, they are the cream of the crop of their divisions. It’s going to be a very talented tournament and we will not be able to take anybody lightly.”