After a round robin loss to White Rock, Hastings came into the final of the B.C. Little League baseball championship seeking retribution.
District 6 Hastings blanked Dunbar 8-0 in the semifinal Friday at Andy Bilesky Park and White Rock was in a close 3-2 game with Beacon Hill until blowing it open in the top of the sixth to win 21-3 in its semi to set up the rematch.
With all eyes expecting a similar round-robin thriller in Saturday’s finale, Hastings had other plans as they pounded the ball relentlessly on their way to a 20-0 victory.
“Our bats just exploded,” said Hastings manager Vito Bordignon. “From batting practice this morning you could see we were just on. You could see we were focused and ready to play today.”
Hastings scored runs at will all week outscoring opponents 100-12. Only White Rock was able to reign in their prodigious bats, as they beat Hastings 7-6 in the round robin, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning and securing the first-place seed. The final outcome then, was a surprise to the District 6 team.
“I expected a better game from our team for sure, but I didn’t expect this kind of outcome, because White Rock is such a strong organization. But I mean we were just on, we kind of demoralized them that first inning and they couldn’t catch up.”
Hastings’ normally light-hitting lead-off hitter Kolby Buljevic set the tone immediately, hitting his first of two home runs as he airmailed a 1-0 pitch over the fence in deep centre field to make it 1-0.
“I hit as many (home runs) today almost in my career,” said Buljevic. “We were ready for this game, and waiting almost all our lives for this, and we just showed up and got lucky a bit I guess.”
Cez Paguio capped off the first inning with a three-run dinger as the Vancouver-Burnaby squad took a commanding 9-0 lead.
District six banged out 22 hits in the game as Paguio went 3-for-3 with four RBIs, while Steve Moretto was 3-for-4 with a double, and tournament leading hitter, batting .727 (16-for-22) with four home runs and 16 RBIs.
“My dad always drills into my head “approach, approach, approach,” said Moretto. “I was hitting pretty well this week, I was picking the ball right out of the pitchers hand.”
Throughout the game Hasting pitcher Cole Dalla-Zana kept the White Rock batters off balance, changing speeds and bringing the heat when needed. The left hander threw 59 pitches, giving up a mere two hits and striking out eight on his way to the shut-out win. Dalla-Zana finished the tournament leading every pitching category with three wins, 18 strikeouts, and a 1.27 ERA.
“Unbelievable game,” Bordignon said of Dalla-Zana. “We were worried about him and weren’t sure how his arm was feeling but he came out this morning and was ready to go – It was a wonderful performance.”
Hastings now heads to the Canadian Championship in Edmonton next week, a very confident crew after such a dominating performance. The team last won the national title in 2009 and the manager noted similarities.
“The bats we displayed today were phenomenal, but very similar (to 2009), and I guess you need that type of team to get through the B.C. championship, because the B.C. championship is the most difficult challenge we’re going to face.”
The winner of the Canadian Little League championship travels to Williamsport, Mass. for the Little League World Series next month.