The Trail Little League All Stars hope to follow up a gold-medal in Chewelah last weekend with the same result at the BC Little League Championship in Victoria this week.
The U12 All Stars hit the diamond on Saturday in their annual quest for a berth into the Canadian championships. Last year’s result, losing in the final by one run to Whalley, was the closest the All Stars have come to winning the provincial championship since 1997. Returning player Connor Stainer enjoyed the incredible run of 2016 where the All Stars went 5-2 in the round robin before beating out Highlands in the semifinal 16-2. The Castlegar native is confident in this year’s squad and like’s the All Star team’s chances.
“It was such a different group last year. We had a great team but the competition was really high and really tough, but I think we can do it this year, I think we can go all the way as a team this year.”
The 12-man-squad is comprised of players from Trail, Castlegar, Nelson, and Grand Forks and has been working out since early June in preparation for the event. On the road to the provincials this past month, the All Stars placed second in a Lethbridge tournament and third place in the Kalispell, Mont. tournament; however, gold in the Mike Carpenter Memorial Tournament in Chewelah was a huge boost.
“I think it gives us more confidence and I think we’ll do pretty good in provincials,” said Nelson’s Koa Wientraub. “Hitting and pitching is our strengths … and this year, I really think this is the year.”
The team has four returning players from the 2016 squad including Koa, Connor, Jake Maniago, and Nathan Dann, and four first year 11-year-old players. It’s a good mix of veterans and rookies for coaches D.J. Ashman, Mike Boisvert, and Jim Maniago, who not only try to bring the best out of each player on the field but off the field as well.
“Last year, it was team-building,” said Stainer. “You found out that it’s not just baseball with this team, you do a bunch of fun things with the team and it really helps out. The four of us have grown together, played all these years together and it’s been pretty fun.”
Ashman likes the make-up of the team saying it is possibly one of the most athletic he’s coached. He may not have as many arms but the bats are explosive and defence solid, and pitching is as much about strategy when facing the complicated pitch counts of the provincial championship.
“I don’t think we have the same depth at pitching as last year, but we’re as good if not better at hitting,” said Jake Maniago. “I think the last game of the tournament (in Chewelah) really pushed us into provincials and how we need to play.”
The Trail All Stars open the provincial tournament against the always tough White Rock at 6 p.m. on Saturday and have a bye on Sunday. The other teams competing include Highlands, New Westminster, Little Mountain, Layritz and Beacon Hill.
While the competition is fierce, for the Trail All-Stars’ Nathan Dann, the outcome is simple.
“I think we’re going to do well. I think we’re going to the Canadians at least.”
The games go throughout the week, winding up with the semifinals on Saturday and the finals on Sunday at noon. The winning team will go on to represent British Columbia at the 2017 Canada Region Championships in Medicine Hat, Aug. 3-12. The Little League World Series will be played Aug. 17-27 in Williamsport, PA.
For complete schedule see scoreboard Pg. 9.
For more info go to www.beaconhilllittleleague.org/