Hastings All-stars will trade their blue and red for Canada's white and red this week when the team suits up in Williamsport, PA. for the Little League World Series.
The 11- and 12-year-old ball players from the East Side left the competition in the dust to win the Canadian Little League Championships, swinging their way to 74 runs in seven games and giving up only two runs to the best ball clubs in the country. They shut out five teams and in the championship final scored 10 runs to close the game in the fourth inning.
"They get a chance to represent the country-there's nothing much better than that," said Hastings Little League club president Dave Jenkins. "This is the only youth sporting activity that's televised all around the world."
As B.C.'s representatives heading into the championship game Saturday at Edmonton's John Fry Park, Hastings had painted a target on its backs as a team impossible to beat and even more difficult to score against. To say it trounced the competition is not an exaggeration.
The final game against the representative from the Prairies was no different. Hastings defeated the Lethbridge Southwest All-stars 11-1.
The first inning was scoreless. In the second, Thomas Neal nailed a solo homer to give Hastings a 1-0 edge. Lethbridge answered to tie the game. There were no runs in the third but in the fourth inning, Hastings put its bats to work like so many major league sluggers.
Base runners were brought in to score and, aided by Lethbridge errors, Hastings took a 5-1 lead. Then the big guns stepped up to plate. With bases loaded, Steven Moretto popped a long-distance shot over the fence to give Hastings a 8-1 lead. Neal, who had seven RBI in the tournament an a .368 at bat average, connected for his second home run of the night and this time scored three runners for a second Hastings grand slam of the inning.
The 10-run lead brought the game to an end, closing out what had been a close game because of the mercy rule.
Hastings batters led all players in hits, runs and RBIs. In 11 hits, Moretto had 11 runs and 13 RBI for a .478 average. Carson Ho had 12 runs, Ataru Yamaguchi nine runs and Cole Dalla-Zanna and Cortez D'Alessandro both had eight runs. Hastings nine batters led all others in hits.
The club's president said the competition in the Lower Mainland and B.C. helped elevate Hastings' game.
"There are a lot of talented clubs n the Lower Mainland and one of the biggest challenges is getting out of the province," said Jenkins, noting the strong Little League programs at Little Mountain, Dunbar, Langley and Whalley.
Hastings travelled to Toronto on Sunday for a special tribute from the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. This week the players, coaches and their families took the train to Pennsylvania for the Little League World Series, which begins Thursday.
On Friday, Canada plays Mexico at 10 a.m. Vancouver time. The game can be watched live on TSN.
This is the second time in four years that Hastings Little League is representing Canada at the World Series. The first, in 2009, was the club's first trip to Williamsport, PA, in its history.
Jenkins said each family will spend roughly $10,000 to reach the Little League World Series. The road to the big time began in Trail, B.C. for provincials and continued through Edmonton for nationals. Each family receives $1,200 from the club.
To support the team's financial costs, contact Jenkins at email@example.com.