The Hastings Red Sox All Stars proved to be the cream of the crop in the the 9-10 B.C. Little League championship, going undefeated in the round robin before defeating Trail on Friday in the semifinal and Highlands in an electric final match on Saturday at Andy Bilesky Park.
Hastings downed a plucky Trail Oriole team 7-2 in the semifinal, before taking out the Highlands All Stars 17-6 in a deceptively thrilling final.
“It was a great game for us . . . but it was nice to play a tight game like that with Trail,” said Hastings head coach Rob Buljevic. “But our game, it wasn’t a 17-6 game, it was a closer game than that, they played a great game and we played a great game, and it was a nice way to end it.”
After Hastings took a 6-1 lead with a five-run second, Highlands continued to chip away at the lead, bringing the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the fifth.
With the score 10-6 and the bases juiced, Highlands’ top hitter Jed Decooman stepped up. Decooman was 12 for 20, with three doubles, a triple, one home run, and seven RBIs over the seven games played, and was facing Laughlin Holbrook who had come on in relief of Luca Buljevic.
“We were trying to pitch him outside,” said coach Buljevic. “You know we seen this guy hit a home run. He crushed one 220 there and we were just trying to get him on the outside. We knew he could cause some damage, and we saw what he did to White Rock yesterday, so I was nervous.”
With one on and two out, Holbrook had ceded a double to Dylan Stevens, then a walk to Sam Aslanowicz to load the bases before facing Decooman. But Holbrook came with the heat, getting the North Van slugger to swing through the first two pitches, and after taking one, the young right-hander would sit the Highlands player down, getting Decooman to swing at an off-speed pitch on the outside corner for out number three, while drawing a huge sigh of relief from the Hastings’ parents.
Highlands had upset White Rock 14-12 in the other semifinal match Friday, coming back from being down 8-5 and scoring seven runs in the fourth inning to get to the final.
Highlands coach Steve Lake said his team was a little nervous facing Hastings but was proud of the way they fought back.
“I brought in a never say die attitude with my boys, they don’t quit, and they crawl every step of the way, we don’t give up that’s for sure,” said Lake.
The big inning proved a factor in many of the games throughout the week. But Hastings was able to ride out most threats including dodging a bullet in the fifth, and getting out of the inning with the lead intact.
“I’ve seen this over the last few years, and it’s just the emotion with kids, because they can change so quickly, just the body language, an error here, just trying to regroup them and get them focused again, we were able to do that,” said Buljevic.
Hastings broke a 1-1 tie in the second inning, scoring five runs to take a 6-1 lead. Highlands would make it 8-3 in the fourth and Hastings scored two more in the top of the fifth.
Highlands plated three in the bottom of the fifth to cut the lead to 10-6.
But it was all Hastings in the top of the sixth, as they overpowered their North Vancouver counterparts, scoring seven runs highlighted by back-to-back doubles by Loreto Siniscalchi and Nicola Barba on their way to the provincial title.
Siniscalchi was a force on the mound for Hastings going three and two-thirds innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four.
“I just threw fast balls,” said Sinisalchi. “Well I threw one curve ball, but I throw fast and I was just trying to throw straight down the middle.”
Niko Sigur and Barba led the Hastings attack going 3-for-4 with three RBIs while Holbrook was 2-for-3 and pitched one-and-one-third innings allowing one hit, two walks, while striking out three. Gabriel Nelson was 2-for-3 for Highlands.
Hastings will host the 2016 Canadian Little League championship, and Buljevic expects much of his team to be on the 11-12 team to compete for the host city. As for Trail, visiting teams were impressed with the hard work of the organizers and volunteers, in what was a great week for Trail Minor Baseball.
“Trail did a great job hosting as far as organization and stuff like that,” said Buljevic. “Clare and Keith (DeWitt), they did a great job hosting the event and being here every day and you know what, we had a great time here and I’d love to come back to Trail again.”