Despite back-to-back losses dashing their hopes for the Little League World Series title, the White Rock All-Stars have “fulfilled a childhood dream” in Williamsport, Pa. this month.
The team made up of Peninsula 11- and 12-year-olds has been stateside for more than a week, after they won the Canadian Little League Championships on Aug. 16 in Nepean, Ont.
And although the squad has not fared as well as they had hoped on the U.S. diamond – losing a hard-fought opening game Friday to Mexico 1-0, followed by a more decisive 16-4 loss to Chinese Taipei the next day – coach Bob Cumiskey told Peace Arch News the boys have soaked up every minute of the “incredible experience.”
“We knew coming here that on the international side, we’re in the stiffest competition in the world,” Cumiskey said Monday morning. “So we told our guys, ‘you’re already Canadian champions before you step on the field, but yes, you’re here to try and win some games.’”
A standout performance by pitcher Matthew Wilkinson in White Rock’s opening game Friday was not enough for the Canadian champs to secure a victory. Wilkinson threw five scoreless innings – racking up 16 strikeouts – before being relieved by Alen Sugimoto, who pitched the sixth.
Wilkinson was responsible, via strikeout, for all 15 outs his team recorded over five innings, and earned an extra one when one Mexican batter struck out, but the ball was dropped by the catcher and the batter made it to first base before he could be thrown out, thus extending the inning.
Mexico’s starting pitcher, Daniel Zaragoza, was nearly equal to Wilkinson on the mound, striking out 10 White Rock batters while pitching the full six frames.
Zaragoza was also responsible for his team’s only run of the game, which came in the bottom of the sixth inning when his single scored Raul Leon to end the game.
White Rock managed just three hits off Zaragoza – Kieran Ritchie had two, and Kole Turner had another.
“We had a very good game against Mexico, and it was a bit of a heartbreaker, losing 1-0,” Cumiskey said. “We just didn’t hit the ball as well as we would have liked.”
White Rock returned to the field Saturday when they faced off against Chinese Taipei, representing the Asia Pacific region.
Strong offence from Chinese Taipei in the first inning – when they racked up nine runs to Canada’s two – set the stage for a tough defeat for the White Rock squad after four innings.
“We got off to a rough start in the first, and there was no looking back after that,” Cumiskey said.
Though the players took the losses hard at first, Cumiskey said, it didn’t take the boys long to perk up.
“The good thing with 11- and 12-year-olds, they were in the arcade playing ping pong and in the pool swimming within an hour,” he said.
The players – who went undefeated throughout their regular season and lost only once in the Canadian championship – have been making the most of the experience. The squad has visited tourist spots around Williamsport and reaped the many benefits of being part of such a prestigious tournament, including a bounty of free bats, helmets and gloves courtesy of Easton.
“They’ve been treated like kings here,” Cumiskey said. “It’s incredible. It’s better than Christmas, they’ve all said – except for one kid. He said it’s a tie.”
Although they were out of the competition bracket, White Rock played a consolation game Tuesday before making the trip home.
Despite the players being “pretty amped up” to get a win before leaving the tournament, White Rock lost Tuesday’s game 18-6 against the Midwest squad, represented by American Webb City, Mo.
– with files from Nick Greenizan