The White Rock All-Stars are taking their talents to the world stage.
The White Rock-South Surrey Baseball Association’s 12-year-old Little Leaguers are set to take on the world this week, at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
On Sunday afternoon, the team of Peninsula 12-year-olds punched its ticket to the prestigious tournament – which is broadcast on television across North America and features some of the world’s top young players – after a convincing 16-0 win over the host squad from East Nepean, Ont.
The White Rock champs now head immediately across the border to Pennsylvania, where they’ll play in the World Series’ International Division at the end of the week, alongside fellow regional champions from Japan, Mexico, Australia and the Caribbean, among others.
In Sunday’s final, White Rock and East Nepean played relatively evenly in the early going – the only runs scored in the first three innings came when the B.C. champs plated three in the second inning, after a runs of singles from Trent Lenihan, Marcus Bradley, Kole Turner and Kai Cumiskey combined with an error by an East Nepean outfielder.
The 3-0 lead held until the fourth, when White Rock exploded for five runs, highlighted by a home run – his fourth of the tournament – from Darius Opdam Bak.
The fifth inning was much of the same for the high-power White Rock offence, as the team exploded for eight runs.
The All-Stars sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning, and Lenihan put an exclamation point on the offensive barrage with two home runs – giving him five for the week.
East Nepean couldn’t close the substantial gap in the bottom half of the inning, and the game ended early on account of the mercy rule.
On the mound for White Rock, Matthew Wilkinson proved nearly impossible for East Nepean batters to hit, striking out 12 while allowing just one hit over the course of the game.
He finished the week as one of the tournament’s top pitchers, leading all hurlers in wins, with two, and strikeouts, with 31.
White Rock had a fair numbers of batters atop the tournament leaderboard, as well. Turner led all hitters in batting average with a .652 mark – Wilkinson, Opdam Bak and Taeo Maisonville also finished in the top 10 in average – while Lenihan finished with the most home runs.
Opdam Bak and Wilkinson finished in a second-place tie for homers, with four apiece. Opdam Bak also ended up leading the tournament in RBI, with 16.
After losing just one round-robin game earlier in the tournament – to the High Park Braves of Ontario – White Rock assured itself of a spot in semifinals with a win Wednesday over Moose Jaw.
Then, on Thursday, White Rock wrapped up its round-robin schedule with a 9-8 victory over High Park, to finish in top spot in the round robin.
In Saturday’s semifinal tilt, the B.C. representatives cruised to an 11-1 win over Nova Scotia’s Glace Bay Colonels, while East Nepean upset their provincial rivals from High Park for the second berth in the championship game.
Against Glace Bay, Opdam Bak earned the win on the mound, striking out eight over four-and-one-thirds innings, and Jay Mather came into the game in relief to record the final two outs, one of them by strikeout.
As was the case for much of the tourney, White Rock relied heavily on the long ball – Opdam Bak, Wilkinson, Turner and Alen Sugimoto all hit home runs to pace the offence.
Now, White Rock will trade their black and teal uniforms for red ones – adorned with the Maple Leaf. In Williamsport, they’ll hit the field for the first time Friday, when they square off against Mexico at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.