A seasoned group of 11- and 12-year-olds hit the road for Victoria today to slug it out with B.C.’s best baseball teams.
Coach D. J. Ashman has been preparing the Trail All Stars with twice-a-day practices and tournaments south of the border to get players primed for the B.C. Little League Major Provincial Championships.
“You have to run the kids through every situation of the game of baseball and hope that they get it when it’s time to go down there,” said Ashman. “Judging from the way we played in a tournament in Pullman over the weekend, I think we are going to compete.”
Colville beat the All Stars in the final of the Pullman tournament in Chewelah last weekend, scoring two runs in the sixth inning to squeeze out the win.
Despite the loss, the veteran coach is pleased with the team’s performance and looks to improve on last year where Trail went 1 and 5 at the provincials.
“Top one through 12, we’ve got a better team this year, kids that are gamers and will put their chests in front of a ball to make a play.”
Trail hasn’t faced any teams in the provincials this year but Ashman is familiar with many of them. District 1 champs, Little Mountain is the reigning 2010 provincial and Canadian champions. Trail lost a close 7-5 match to them last year and will not play the Mountain until their fourth game on Thursday.
“Our schedule actually looks better than last year, it doesn’t look like we’re going to have as tough a start so we get to kind of ease into things a bit. If we can win two of the first three games we’re set up pretty good.”
While hitting has been inconsistent for the All Stars, strong pitching and an improved defense have emerged as the strengths of the team and “pitching and defense is what wins championships,” says Ashman.
The biggest challenge for the coach is planning a rotation with a strict pitch count, against teams they haven’t played. If a pitcher throws 20 or less pitches he can pitch the next day. Over 20 but less than 35 requires the player to take a day off of pitching. Above 35 and the player isn’t allowed to pitch for two days.
Knowing when to leave your ace in the game and when to go to the pen is a gamble that may not payoff.
“The bottom line is all six of our pitchers have got to be ready to go every game . . . we’re going to play each game like it’s our last.”
The All Stars play the first game of the provincials Saturday at 10 a.m. against Lynn Valley and will play each team in the round robin before playoffs commence July 30.
Participating teams include host Hampton, Little Mountain, Lynn Valley, Langley, Hastings, Layritz and Trail.
Many area businesses and individuals have pitched in to help the All Stars offset travel costs.The team is still accepting donations at any Kootenay Savings Branch under Trail All Stars account.