As Trail Little League Baseball (TLLB) hits the diamond for its playoffs today, local coaches will also be on the lookout for potential all stars to play in the provincial championships in July.
Andy Bilesky Park will host the Little League Major age 11-12 division playoffs this weekend, while the Minor division 9-10 will battle for supremacy in Nelson.
Trail Little League had a very successful season with over 100 players coming out to play. As a result, the Major playoffs will see eight teams battle for the TLLB title with a two pool, round-robin format starting Friday at Andy Bilesky Park.
Pool A is comprised of the Trail Eagles, Castlegar 2, Grand Forks, and Nelson Major, while Pool B includes the Trail Legion, Castlegar 1, Beaver Valley and Nelson Intermediate.
The Eagles open the tournament against Castlegar 2 at 3:45 p.m. Friday, with the Legion facing Castlegar 1 at 6 p.m. The playoffs continue on both fields all weekend until Sunday’s final at 1:30 p.m.
The Eagles will look to claim their fifth title in a row, however, last year’s finalist, Nelson, will try to end that run as will a tough Beaver Valley team that has had the Eagles number for most of the season, winning 3-of-4 in league play as well as a triumph in the Beaver Valley May Days tournament final.
The All-Star tryouts will go Monday to Wednesday for the Minor and Major teams, with Minor coach Jim Maniago and Major coach D. J. Ashman expecting a healthy compliment of players looking to crack the lineups.
“We are expecting a really big group at tryouts,” said Maniago. “If everyone that has been in contact with us shows up, we’ll have over 30 kids from Trail, B.V., Nelson, Castelgar, Salmo, Grand Forks, Kimberley and Okanagan Falls. Quite a difference from the 10 kids that showed up last year. It will be a tough team to make.”
As for the Majors, Ashman is revelling in this year’s team’s potential and the prospect of picking the team from close to 30 players. Ashman again will be aided by Mike Boisvert and Jason Startup as co-coaches, while Maniago and Wes Dann will head the Minor contingent.
“All three of us are pretty excited about this year,” said Ashman. “Because even the kids that aren’t on the team that are going to make it have been coached by one of us three, so they already know our system; so from a coaching part of it, we’re not going to have to spend as much time on those fine details, we can just do the repetition stuff and just mass amounts of it.”
The Major All-Stars had a young team last year and struggled at the provincial tournament finishing without a win but going home with a well-deserved Most Sportsmanlike Team award. This year’s team, however, will enjoy a solid foundation of veteran players with six returning from last year’s squad, including: Jesse Ihas, Allison Schroeder, Nate and Marty Ingram, Reilly McKinnon, and Max Profilli.
“That’s the thing, as young kids they got to play in key positions last year as 11 year olds, which a lot of 11-year-old players don’t really get that opportunity on most All-Star teams, but I think that is one of the things that is going to benefit us, is that half our team has been through that whole experience.”
Maniago is similarly optimistic about the potential of his Minor All-Star team, “We hope to have a good team, it’s hard to gauge, but we should have lots of pitching and kids that can play anywhere. The Lower Mainland teams at provincials will be tough but hopefully we can hang in there with them.”
Try outs for the Minor All-Star team goes Monday at 5 p.m. and Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Major All-Stars go at 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at 5 p.m.
The Trail Minor All Stars will host the provincials at Andy Bilesky Park July 12-19, while the Trail Major All Stars travel to Langley for the provincials, July 19-26.