Trail All Stars battered but unbowed

The B.C. Little League championship held its opening ceremonies Saturday and is in full swing at Andy Bilesky Park this week.

The Trail All Stars knew their first two games were going to be tough, and despite a good effort, the competition proved them right.

Trail dropped its first game Saturday 6-3 to District 3 White Rock, before going down 12-1 to Hastings on Sunday.

“Our hope going in was to win one of the first two and this is the worst case going 0-2, but we got three beatable teams that we can beat in the next three games,” said Trail manager D. J. Ashman.

The District 6 team from Hastings has to be considered a favourite to take this year’s B.C. championship after knocking off Trail as well as Beacon Hill 17-0 Saturday.

Despite the lopsided wins, Hastings manager Vito Bordignon says that after breezing through districts, it’s the best competition he has seen this year. The  team is a testament to the program and Bordignon’s 28 years involved in Hastings Little League – the last 15 with the All Stars, which include a provincial and Canadian title in 2009.

“It’s a lot of due diligence of the kids, the parents, the coaching, the league,” he said. “We really emphasize trying to get these kids developed at an early age. A lot of the guys have been playing together since they were eight years old. The continuity of playing together you can see it on the field, they actually like playing for each other.”

Trevor Vancamp led off for Trail to open the game against Hastings. He drove a fastball deep to right-centre, but the Hastings fielder Thomas Neal made an incredible diving catch to Rob Vancamp of a double and set the tone for the rest of the game.

“That’s just a bad break,” said Ashman. “Any other game it’s a lead-off double, the next guy lays down a bunt and then you got your three, four, five hitters, pound three or four runs in, but that’s just our luck . . . anyone can say, ‘no big deal,’ but it’s a deflating thing right off the bat.”

Hastings immediately made Trail pay. A lead off single, followed by back-to back-triples by Steven Morretto and Noah Handson paced Hastings to a 5-0 lead.

Trail got on the board in the second when Brendan Makay led off with a single up the middle, Jon Ballarin walked, and Kian Jonston doubled in Makay to make it 5-1.

But Hastings added five more in the second, and despite getting runners in scoring position in the third and fourth innings, the All Stars couldn’t cash in the runs.

Similarly, in Trail’s opening loss to White Rock, Trail jumped out into a 3-0 lead thanks to a two-run homerun by Makay in the first inning. But the Rock chipped away, scoring two runs each in the first and second inning to take a 4-3 lead that it would not relinquish.

“Overall we were right in the game. We only hit in the first inning but if we hit for even four innings or five of the six innings we’re going to beat them.”

Ashman knows only too well the quality of baseball in the provincial tournaments having played on the last Trail team to win the B.C. and Canadian championship team in1990 and years of experience leading the All Stars.

“We’re right there, we know we can beat them and the kids feel good enough and positive enough if we played them in the semis or the finals to beat them,” said Ashman.

His rival from Hastings agrees.

“You never discount the hometown team, because they’re a scrappy little bunch, so you never know on any given day with the right pitching and right hitting they can make  a game of it and that’s all it takes in this league,” says Bordignon.

Trail needs to win at least two of its next three games to make the playoffs. The next home game goes tonight at 5 p.m. and Tuesday at the same time.

In the other game Saturday, Dunbar beat Forest Hills 10-6. Sunday’s scores for Beacon Hill vs Forest Hills and Dunbar vs White Rock were unavailable at press time.