The Trail Little League Major All Stars baseball team are off to take another shot at the provincial Little League title in Kerrisdale today.
The week-long event starts Saturday with the final going July 28 at Elm Park. The Trail team is going with a 10-player roster that includes seven 11-year-old and three 12-year-old players from Beaver Valley, Nelson, Kimberley, and Trail. The young team may be at a disadvantage going up against teams of all 12-year-old players but coach D.J. Ashman isn’t concerned.
“They have a great attitude, they just play the game and don’t get to uptight or nervous . . . You just never know. Do you think we can squeak a few wins out? Absolutely.”
The six teams participating are eerily similar to the 2012 lineup at the B.C.s in Trail, with last year’s champion Hastings returning along with Dunbar, White Rock, Beacon Hill, and Forest Hills.
The round-robin tournament will be holding a home run derby on Sunday at the end of the third game with the banquet to follow at the park.
While the Trail All Stars may be young, they have ample depth on the mound with nine of 10 players able to pitch. Ashman is planning on taking advantage of that depth to change up pitchers every 20 pitches, the maximum allowed by the pitch count without having to rest a game.
“We have a whole wide range of different speeds, different type pitches, and were going to go with the 20-20-20 rule so that all of our kids are fresh every day,” said Ashman. “If one kid’s going good we’ll stretch it to 35 but what we found in our two tournaments the reason why we’ve been in the games is we’ve kept the batters off-balance by changing.”
It is a small departure from last year’s championship when they rode a couple of arms perhaps too hard, too early, and they weren’t available later in the tournament.
“Last year we tried to ride a few guys, but it just didn’t work out . . . we had to have certain guys throw then lengthen them out, but towards the end of the tournament you end up losing those guys because they need three or four games rest. So if you go 20-20-20 or even a 35 to have just one game rest, then you still have a multiple array of things available.”
One arm the All Stars will be counting on is the only returning player from last year’s team, pitching ace Brad Ross.
“Last year we had a lot of 12 year olds, and I was the only 11 year old, now we only have a couple 12 year olds, so it’ll be more of a leader position for me,” said Ross.
The team held a 2-6 record in two warm-up tournaments in Kalispell and Pullman, and despite the losing record the Trail Allstars were in every game and never lost a game by more that two runs.
“We have a good team this year,” said Ross. “I think we can go far, if we play at our best.”
The Trail Allstars may not be tournament favourites this year, but the experience leaves the coach optimistic for next year.
“That’s why I’m thinking we can pull out a few games,” said Ashman. “Their attitude is so positive, they never give up, and the experience for these kids will be invaluable, they will be playing key positions as 11 year olds.”