Pioneer's road to a third trip to the Little League Softball World Series starts today.
The District 8 all-star tournaments begin today at Northern Little League on Psalmond Road. Seven tournaments -- four baseball and three softball -- will be played over the next 10 days to determine qualifiers for the state level.
The major softball tournament (ages 11-12) has just three teams. Harris County and Northern open the tournament at 10 a.m. today. Pioneer will play the winner at 2 p.m. Sunday. The double-elimination tournament is scheduled to end Tuesday or Wednesday.
Pioneer's team this season
is coached by Johnny Valero. Only one player -- Nyiah Kelley -- returns from last season's team.
"We may be looked at as the underdogs in this tournament," Valero said. "But if we play the game the right way, we will be OK."
With an almost completely new team, Valero said there is no pressure on this team to repeat last year's success when it finished third in its second trip to the world series.
"This team knows what the goals are, though," Valero said.
The winner will advance to the state tournament, which will be hosted by Pioneer, starting July 11, In addition to the major softball state championships, Pioneer will also host the state tournaments for four other age groups.
The major baseball tournament also gets underway today with American and Harris County playing at noon and Pioneer and Peach meeting at 2 p.m. Northern's first game will be Tuesday against the American-Harris County winner.
The major baseball champion will play in the state tournament in Athens starting July 25.