Just two games remain between the White Rock All-Stars and a spot at the Little League World Series.
The team of 11- and 12-year-old ballplayers – who punched their ticket to the Medicine Hat, Alta.-hosted Canadian Little League Championships after a provincial-title win in late July – wrapped up the round-robin schedule of nationals Wednesday with a 6-5 win over Quebec’s Mirabel Diamond Academy.
The victory gave the B.C. representatives a perfect 6-0 record, and sent them into Friday’s semifinal, where they’ll face the Alberta champions from Lethbridge. On Tuesday in round-robin play, White Rock defeated Lethbridge 12-2.
The winner of Friday’s contest will advance to the championship game Saturday morning.
While many of White Rock’s six victories so far have been lopsided in nature – the team has outscored its opponents 96-23 in total – Wednesday’s victory over Quebec was anything but a cakewalk. In fact, White Rock – who’ve yet to lose a game this summer – found themselves in unfamiliar territory and trailed 5-0 after three innings of play.
“(Quebec) was definitely the strongest competition we’ved faced here,” said White Rock coach Ryan Hefflick.
“We were down early but fought our way back – it was a great test of our character.”
While two of White Rock’s six runs were scored via what Hefflick called “small ball” – bunting, moving runners over, and eventually scoring – the team tied it up with one swing of the bat, when Chase Marshall clubbed a grand slam in the bottom of the fourth inning to tie the game 5-5. They took the lead with one more run in the fifth, and then held on for the victory.
Relief pitcher Reece Usselman was credited with the win after allowing just two hits and one run over two-and-two-thirds of an inning.
Now, the All-Stars will focus on the playoff rounds, and though a trip to Williamsport, Pa. for the Little League World Series is just two wins away, Hefflick said his team was doing its best to stay focused.
“They know what’s at stake, but they know we have two more games that we have to go out and win.”