August is shaping up to be a very busy month for members of the White Rock All-Stars baseball team.
Less than 48 hours after rolling undefeated through provincial championships in Victoria – capturing the title with an 11-0 win over New Westminster in the final – the squad, made up of 11- and 12-year-olds, left Tuesday morning for Medicine Hat, where they’re set to represent B.C. at Canadian championships.
The 10-day tournament begins Thursday and wraps up Aug. 12, and should the Semiahmoo Peninsula squad find success in Alberta, they won’t get much of a breather – the winning team at nationals travels immediately to Williamsport, Pa., where they’ll don Canadian colours at the Little League World Series.
And while that tournament looms large in the distance, the local Little Leaguers are first focused on winning this week.
“The kids are really excited to have the opportunity, but they’re very mature (for their age), and they haven’t lost sight of the fact that we haven’t won anything yet,” White Rock head coach Ryan Hefflick told Peace Arch News Monday morning.
That’s not entirely true, of course; the team did win provincials, and in convincing fashion, no less.
White Rock’s 11-0 win over New West was truncated to just five innings due to the mercy rule, and the host squad only managed one hit. In fact, they had trouble putting the bat on the ball at all – all 15 outs record by White Rock were via strikeout, most by pitcher Reese Usselman, who struck out the first 12 batters he faced.
Hefflick called the pitching performance “a key highlight” of not just the game, but the entire tournament.
Offensively, the All-Stars were no slouches, either, with two players – Kyle Chyzowski and Reid Hefflick – hitting home runs.
White Rock went a perfect 6-0 through round-robin play to head into the playoff rounds as the No. 1 seed. In semifinals, they defeated the hosts, Beacon Hill, 6-1.
The undefeated run continues what has been a summer full of victories for the young ball club. The team had similar success at District 3 Championships in July, winning the title game 24-3 over Whalley. In total, the team has gone undefeated in 13 games this postseason, and outscored their opponents by a combined 179-28.
And while the offensive numbers are gaudy – an average of nearly 14 runs per game – the head coach said the key to success goes beyond what happens in the batter’s box.
“All the other teams and fans at provincials were commenting on how strong our hitting was, but we’re a very deep team not only in hitting, but pitching and defence, as well,” Hefflick said.
“That’s the real strength of our team – that we have 13 quality players who all contribute.”
Three players on this year’s team were also on last year’s summer squad, Hefflick noted, though this year’s group has advanced further. In 2016, White Rock lost in the District 3 tournament.
However, the White Rock-South Surrey Baseball Association is no stranger to having 11/12 all-star squads play through the month of August. In 2015, White Rock advanced all the way to the Little League World Series, and also pulled off the feat in back-to-back years, in 2007 and ’08.
A return trip to the prestigious tournament is the goal, Hefflick noted, though he was quick to add that the team is, for now, focused squarely on nationals.
“Our players have a goal in mind, and they’re still very focused on what they have to do,” he said.
“But when we pack (this week), we’re packing for a month.”