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New faces highlight weekend tourney

When play begins in the 10th annual Southern Oregon Classic American Legion A baseball tournament on Saturday, new teams and faces will blanket the diamond at The Yard.

The North Jackson Royals, an Eagle Point-based team, plays host to the five-team, round-robin tournament that runs Saturday and Sunday.

Budget concerns over lengthy travel by legion teams throughout the state have hampered Royals coach Tom Britton's efforts to attract teams to the annual venue.

It's getting tougher and tougher every year to find teams, says Britton. Plus it's pretty early in the year and a lot of teams are just getting started.

— Tournament mainstay Jesuit won't be involved due to the above concerns, opening the door for teams such as the Grants Pass Miners and a Humboldt squad from California.

Also in the mix besides the host Royals will be Central Point and a Fairfield, Calif., squad which has been a consistent member of the Father's Day weekend tournament.

Each team is guaranteed four games and there will be a 2&

189; -hour game time limit.

In each of the previous tournaments, North Jackson has shared or posted the best four-game record to earn the tourney title.

We've been pretty successful, says Britton, who has been with Eagle Point for 25 years and headed the Royals each season since its inception 10 years ago. This year, I don't know.

We're pretty young.

Heading into Thursday's doubleheader with the South Medford Colts, North Jackson stands at 1-2.

The Royals makeup is a stark contrast to the experienced teams in the past.

Six members of the North Jackson team are 15 year olds that either saw limited varsity action for the Eagle Point High team or were strictly junior varsity.

We're taking a different approach this season than in the past, says Britton. We're looking to build for the upcoming high school season, so these younger guys will get some valuable experience.

far, this is the youngest team we've ever had.

The Royals lured four veterans from the Eagles' team that finished 4-10 in Southern Oregon Conference play and 11-14 overall.

Among the quartet, catcher Ricky O'Callahan, a second-team all-SOC performer, and outfielder Casey Hedrick, who earned honorable mention, look to bolster the inexperienced lineup.

On the mound, Richie Cruz and Chris Boyd will anchor a still unproven pitching staff.

Also in the mix is 16-year-old hurler Corey Skiscim, who came on late in the varsity prep season and earned time on the mound.

It's going to pretty much be a whole new ballgame, says Britton. I tried to keep some of the older kids around for stability, but basically our pitching is going to be very inexperienced.

The Royals kick off tournament play at noon Saturday with a game against Central Point on field No. 1.

Humboldt and North Jackson square off in the noon opener on Sunday, with the final game on each day starting at 6 p.m.

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4480 or e-mail .