The 2019 baseball season in White Salmon didn’t end with Columbia High’s quarterfinal loss last month in the State 1A Baseball Tournament.

Instead, it transitioned from one upper level of competition to another in which winning championships is secondary to players acquiring playing experience against other skilled players from the Pacific Northwest, mostly.

White Salmon’s spring/summer baseball team, the Columbia Gorge River Bandits, opened its fourth season over Memorial Day weekend, going  2-2-1 at the West Coast Premier Classic in Wilsonville, Ore. They improved their record by going 3-1 last weekend at the fifth annual CF Roosters’ Broken Bat Invitational co-hosted by Woodland and La Center baseball programs.

All told, the River Bandits could play 50-plus games this spring/summer season, which concludes July 12-14 at the Blaine Border Tournament.

The 2018 version of the River Bandits posted a 21-13 record, which included second-place tournament finishes at the Casey Yocom Invitational in Reno, Nev., and the Brent Edwards Invitation-al in Selah.

According to returning manager John Hallead, the 2019 River Bandits will have a different look.

“We had a large number of players wanting to try out and rather than cut our roster down to 15, like year’s past, we chose to split the players into two teams,” with a roster for 18-and-under competition and a roster for 16-and-under competition, said Hallead, who is 47-25 in three seasons as River Bandits manager.

“The whole purpose behind creating the Bandits from scratch was to give baseball players from the White Salmon valley and Stevenson communities a similar summer baseball opportunity to those in the Vancouver and Longview areas, that was absent when I arrived in White Salmon.”

Hallead said the 18U squad will play in six tournaments over the summer, including another West Coast Premier Tournament in Centralia over Fathers Day weekend.

Also on tap are returns to the Brent Edwards tournament in Selah on June 20-23, a Wood Bat Classic in the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area on July 5-8, and the Blaine Border tournament at the end of the season.

Sandwiched in between the tournaments, the River Bandits will play American Legion teams from around Vancouver, Select teams, and Senior Babe Ruth squads from the Vancouver and Longview areas.

The schedule includes a 10-game home stand from June 24-29. The home stand will feature double-headers on June 24, 25, 27, 28, and 29 at Hecomovich Field. The Bandits’ first home double-header, against the Vancouver Cardinals, will be played June 19.

Hallead said he chose to spend money on home games this year rather than plan a large out-of-state trip like last year’s trip to Reno.

“We are so thankful for and appreciative of our parent support and community’s support of our summer baseball program that I thought it would be nice to schedule six home double-headers this summer to allow our supporters the opportunity and luxury of watching our boys play at home,” said Hallead.

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