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I-90 baseball joins Little League platform, providing national chance

Blaze Herdman, left, makes a throw to first base to complete a double play as Caden Oberbroekling slides into second base during a recent I-90 Little League practice in Corsica. (Ryan Deal / Republic)

The towns at the heart of South Dakota will now have a say in the road to the Little League World Series.

The I-90 Little League has joined the North Dakota/South Dakota Little League’s District 1 and its all-star team is competing in this weekend’s Sub-District Tournament in Valley Springs. The league, which consists of 11 teams along and around Interstate 90 between Mitchell and Chamberlain, began the process of joining Little League International after last season.

“There’s been talk about it for years and wondering why we weren’t part of something like that to enhance our league and our area and get our I-90 league built up a little bit,” said I-90 Little League coach Chad Wentland. “So that’s kind of where it started.”

More South Dakota communities are joining the Little League International structure but the I-90 league is decidedly different among the other cities. Each of the 11 towns in the league has less than 2,500 people and most have less than 1,000 people.

The I-90 coaches contacted Little League International and went through the process of joining the national platform. The I-90 League has teams in three age divisions: under-8, under-10 and under-12.

“The only ones that joined Little League International this year are the 12-and-under group,” Wentland said. “I think we may in the future hopefully try and get all these signed up for Little League and be a part of that.”

There are 145 players in the I-90 league and 13 were selected to the all-star team, after going through a nomination process. The all-star team consists of Sawyer Donovan (Chamberlain), Tanner Dyk (Platte), Joey Foxley (Platte), Keegan Haider (Wessington/Wolsey), Blaze Herdman (Wessington/Wolsey), Brock Krueger (Wessington Springs), Blake Larson (Wessington Springs), Blake Leiferman (Kimball/White Lake), Dakota Munger (Chamberlain), Caden Oberbroekling (Platte), Isaiah Olson (Mount Vernon), Cain Tobin (Plankinton) and Tyson Wentland (Corsica/Stickney).

In the short time since joining Little League International, the league has generated interest among the younger age divisions.

“We have got younger players that are in our 10U programs that are already asking ‘What do I have to do to be able to compete at that level next year or the following year,’ ” I-90 manager Charlie Christensen said. “We just think it will breed better play out of younger kids that really want to move on and advance to higher levels in baseball.”

The other Little League International teams in South Dakota include Huron, Capital City (Pierre), Harrisburg, Brandon Valley, Sioux Falls, Belle Fourche, Timberline (Rapid City), Spearfish, Harney (Rapid City), Sturgis, Rushmore (Rapid City) and Canyon Lake (Rapid City).

To qualify for the Little League World Series on Aug. 16-26 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, teams must first win a double-elimination sub-district tournament. South Dakota is broken into four sub-district tournaments in East River and West River, which began Friday and concludes July 10. The four winners of each sub-district will go onto the district tournament on July 20-23 in Rapid City.

The district tournament winner plays the North Dakota district winner on July 28 in Brandon. The winner represents North Dakota/South Dakota in the Midwest tournament on Aug. 5-11 in Westfield, Indiana. The Midwest region includes Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska. The Midwest winner then advances to the Little League World Series.

“I don’t know where we are going to fall or what we are going to do,” Chad Wentland said. “But the kids are going to have a memory made that you can’t take away from them.”