Sports Zone

Challengers looking to build on success

The Emerald Challengers have been knocking on the door every season during coach Kenny Niles’ tenure. 

Will this be the year they finally bust it down? 

Now entering his sixth season, Niles has compiled a 220-59 record with the Class AAA American Legion team. Last year, the Challengers went 50-8 and won the Area 4 title, but lost to the Portland Barters – the Area 2 champs – for the state championship.

The Challengers won their second straight state title in 2021 and made it to the regional semifinals before losing to Idaho Falls, which won back-to-back World Series championships. 

“Yeah, the ultimate goal is to get to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., in August, and the regionals in Billings, Mont., before that,” said Bill Crawford, beginning his ninth season as the team’s radio broadcaster. “Niles will always fight for his team, anytime, any place. He’s a players’ coach.” 

This year’s 18-player roster is not yet finalized, but many of last year’s players are expected to return, including Pleasant Hill standouts Caden Richardson and Alejandro Ziolkowski. The team will consist of players ages 15-19 from Lane County schools. 

Tryouts continue throughout this week for the Challengers and their Class A affiliate, the Ole Athletics. Tryouts and games are both at North Eugene High School’s Swede Johnson Stadium. The Challengers and Athletics face off in a doubleheader to open the season June 3 at 5 p.m., then the Challengers hit the road for a double-dip at Corvallis on June 4 at 6 p.m. See eugenechallengers.com for a full schedule. 

Last season, the Challengers homered only twice – yet they still won nearly 90 percent of their games. 

“They had great team chemistry, excellent coaching and timely hitting,” said Crawford, who you can find on KKNX and radio84.com. “They really played well as a team.” 

On Saturday, June 15, Shadow Hills Country Club is hosting Meet the Challengers Night, in which fans not only get to meet this year’s team but also honor the 2012 state championship team.

CHALLENGERS 2024 SCHEDULE

JUNE

3: Game 1, Challengers (Class AAA) vs. Ole Athletics (Class A) at Swede Johnson Stadium, 5 p.m.; Game 2, 7:30 p.m. 

4: Game 1, Challengers at Corvallis, Corvallis HS Taylor Field, 6 p.m.; Game 2, 8 p.m.

10: Challengers at Roseburg, Legion Field, 7 p.m.

12: Game 1, Challengers vs. Mid-Valley, 5 p.m.; Game 2, 7:30 p.m.

13: Challengers at Roseburg, 7 p.m.

15: Game 1, Challengers vs. Post 58, noon; Game 2, 2:30 p.m.

16: Game 1, Challengers vs. Redmond, 1 p. m.: Game 2, 3:30 p.m.

17: Game 1, Challengers vs. Redmond, 5 p.m.; Game 2, 7:30 p.m.

18: Challengers (Class AAA) vs. Ole Athletics (Class A), 6 p.m.

20-24: Battle of Omaha Tournament, 26: Game 1, Challengers at Klamath Falls, Kiger Stadium, 5  p.m.; Game 2, 7:30  p.m.

30: Game 1, Challengers at Mid Coast, Frank Wade Field, 1 p.m.; Game 2, 3:30 p.m. 

JULY

1: Challengers vs. Klamath Falls, 5 p.m. 

3: Game 1, Challengers vs. Hillsdale, 10:30 a.m.

4: Challengers vs. Eagle River, 8 p.m. 

5: Challengers vs. Mudville, 8 p.m.

6: Challengers vs. Reno, 5:30 p.m.

8: Game 1, Challengers vs. Roseburg, 5 p.m.; Game 2, 7:30 p.m. 

10-14: Challengers vs. GSL College Showcase.

15: Game 1, Challengers vs. Grants Pass, 5 p.m.; Game 2, 7:30 p.m.

16: Challengers at Mid-Valley, West Albany HS, 7 p.m.

17: Game 1, Challengers at Grants Pass, All-Sport Park, 5 p.m.; Game 2, 7:30 p.m. 

19: Game 1, Challengers vs. Post 20, 5 p.m.; Game 2, 7:30 p.m. 

20: Game 1, Challengers vs. Medford, 5 p.m.; Game 2, 7:30 p.m. 

22: Game 1, Challengers at Medford, Harry and David Field, 5 p.m.; Game 2, 7:30 p.m.

26-31: State Tournament, Swede Johnson Stadium

AUGUST

7-11: NW Regional Tournament, Billings, Mont.

NOTE
Doubleheaders are 7 innings.
Challengers’ home games are at Swede Johnson Stadium, 200 Silver Ln. (North Eugene High School).

SPRINGFIELD DRIFTERS 2024 SCHEDULE

MAY

31: SPR at Yakima Valley, Yakima County Stadium, 7:05 p.m.

JUNE

1: SPR at Yakima Valley, 6:35 p.m.

2: SPR at Yakima Valley, 5:05 p.m.

4: Yakima Valley at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

5: Yakima Valley at SPR, 6:35 p.m. 

6: Yakima Valley at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

7: Bend at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

8: Bend at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

9: Bend at SPR, 1:05 p.m.

11: SPR at Bend, Vince Genna Stadium, 6:35 p.m.

12: SPR at Bend, 6:35 p.m.

13: SPR at Bend, 6:35 p.m.

14: Cowlitz at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

15: Cowlitz at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

16: Cowlitz at SPR, 4:05 p.m.

18: SPR at Corvallis, Goss Stadium at Coleman Field, 6:35 p.m.

19: SPR at Corvallis, 6:35 p.m.

20: SPR at Corvallis, 6:35 p.m.

21: Corvallis at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

22: SPR at Corvallis, 7:05 p.m.

23: Corvallis at SPR, 4:05 p.m.

25: SPR at Walla Walla,  Borleske Stadium, 6:35 p.m.

26: SPR at Walla Walla, 6:35 p.m.

27: SPR at Walla Walla, 6:35 p.m.

28: SPR at Cowlitz, Story Field, 

6:35 p.m.

29: SPR at Cowlitz, 6:35 p.m.

30: SPR at Cowlitz, 1:05 p.m.

JULY

2: Cascade Collegiate League at SPR, 6:35 p.m. 

3: Cascade Collegiate League at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

4: Idaho at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

5: Idaho at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

7: Corvallis at SPR, 4:05 p.m.

9: Portland at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

10: Portland at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

11: Portland at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

12: Ridgefield at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

13: Ridgefield at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

14: Ridgefield at SPR, 4:05 p.m.

15: SPR at Corvallis, 6:35 p.m.

16: SPR at Corvallis, 6:35 p.m.

19: SPR at Edmonton, Re/Max Field, 7:05 p.m.

20: SPR at Edmonton, 7:05 p.m.

21: SPR at Edmonton, 1:05 p.m.

23: SPR at Portland, Walker Stadium, 7:05 p.m.

24: SPR at Portland, 7:05 p.m.

25: SPR at Portland, 7:05 p.m.

26: Walla Walla at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

27: Walla Walla at SPR. 6:35 p.m.

28: Walla Walla at SPR, 1:05 p.m.

30: Bend at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

31: Bend at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

AUGUST

1: Bend at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

2: SPR at Ridgefield,  Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex, 

6:35 p.m.

3: SPR at Ridgefield, 6:35 p.m.

4: SPR at Ridgefield, 1:05 p.m.

6: Bellingham at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

6: Bellingham at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

7: Bellingham at SPR, 6:35 p.m.

NOTE: All SPR home games at Hamlin Sports Complex, 326 Centennial Blvd.

DRIFTERS: IF YOU GO

Tickets: You can purchase tickets to game at the gate or ahead of time by going to: https://happsnow.com/team/springfield-drifters-baseball

More info: DriftersBaseball.com

League info: WestCoastLeague.com

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