White Rock baserunner Chase Marshall avoids a tag at home during semifinal action at Canadian Little League Championships Friday in Medicine Hat. (Kim Bratvold Photography)

White Rock baserunner Chase Marshall avoids a tag at home during semifinal action at Canadian Little League Championships Friday in Medicine Hat. (Kim Bratvold Photography)

White Rock All-Stars ‘on Cloud 9’ at Little League World Series

Baseball squad will open tournament with game against Italy on Thursday

The White Rock All-Stars are preparing to take on the world, after finishing in top spot at Canadian Little League championships Saturday in Medicine Hat.

The final-game victory – 12-5 over Quebec’s Mirabel Diamond Academy – propelled the baseball squad east to Williamsport, Pa., home of the Little League World Series.

White Rock arrived at the World Series just after midnight on Monday morning, and after a few days of media responsibilities and practice, will open their schedule against Italy on Thursday.

“It’s sunk in now, and the boys are still on Cloud 9,” White Rock head coach Ryan Hefflick told Peace Arch News.

“They’re loving it. There’s a very regimented schedule here – to get photos taken and things like that – so the boys are working, doing lots of different things, but Little League knows exactly how to make the kids feel comfortable.

This year marks the fourth time in the last 10 years that White Rock has represented Canada at the LLWS, having previous played in the prestigious tournament in 2007 and ‘08, and then again in 2015.

It didn’t take long for this year’s Canadian champs to start soaking up the World Series atmosphere, Hefflick noted.

“In our dorm, we’re with Australia and (USA) West, which is Southern California. All the teams met this morning for breakfast in the same cafeteria, so that was a real treat to see everybody in their country T-shirts and uniforms. It was quite an experience for them.”

Saturday was quite an experience for the White Rock, too – right from the first pitch.

In the bottom of the first inning, Quebec’s leadoff hitter, Christophe Lepage Mancini, turned on the first pitch of the game thrown by White Rock’s Reece Usselman, sending the ball over the fence in right field.

The Mirabel, Que.-based squad tacked on two more runs before the inning was over to lead 3-0 early.

The first inning runs were the only blip on another strong pitching performance by Usselman, however, who didn’t allow another run, and finished the game with seven strikeouts over five innings of work. Reid Hefflick pitched the final inning, in relief, striking out two and allowing a late-game home run – but by then, White Rock had already built a substantial lead.

A quick between-inning pep talk was all that was required for the team to shake off the rough first inning.

“We did talk to (Reece) after that inning, and just gave him some confidence. We told him he made good pitches, and sometimes when you throw that hard, the bat hits the ball and – it’s just force times mass times acceleration. Sometimes when a kid gets a bat on a ball like that, it’s going to travel a long way,” Hefflick said.

“We told him to just keep doing what he was doing, and good things would happen – and they did. He really shut them down after that, and gave us a chance to come back and tie it, and eventually win.

“He pitched absolutely fantastic – just a fantastic game.”

Falling behind Quebec early in the game was nothing new for White Rock – the same thing happened during the teams’ round-robin matchup Wednesday, in which Quebec took a 5-0 lead only to see White Rock claw back and win 6-5.

“It was not the start that we were expecting or had hoped for, but the kids never got nervous. Obviously, they weren’t pleased, but they knew if they battled hard they could still end up on top,” Hefflick said.

“I think (Wednesday) helped. We weren’t happy with how we played in that game, but the silver lining was that it gave us a bit of adversity, which we hadn’t faced. We knew it would build some character that maybe we’d need, if we faced some tough situations.”

Trailing 3-0, White Rock got one run back in the second inning on a solo home run by Ty Fluet, and in the third frame, powered past their opponents with a six-run explosion that gave them a four-run cushion.

“We strung together a lot of quality at-bats, some singles… then we were able to get some runs in and get them a little bit on edge,” Hefflick said.

Still, the 7-3 lead did little to calm the coach’s nerves. It wasn’t until the final inning – after a Kyle Chyzowski three-run homer – that he allowed himself to think about Williamsport.

“That’s the only moment where I was able to exhale,” he said. “Then I knew we were going to win – but not until then.”

Eight of the last nine Little League World Series crowns have been won by either U.S.-based teams – A team from upstate New York won last summer – or Japanese teams, with a team from Seoul, South Korea being the only outlier, having won in 2014.

No Canadian team has ever won the tournament, and just one – from Stoney Creek, Ont. in 1965 – has ever appeared in the championship game.

Just Posted

Councillor Doug Elford. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Elford to join Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society as a director

Fellow Safe Surrey Coalition Councillors Laurie Guerra, Mandeep Nagra and Allison Patton will be re-appointed to the board

A cyclist stops traffic to allow a gaggle of geese cross the road. (Tino Fluckiger photo)
White Rock man asks motorists to be mindful of wildlife after close call

Impatient motorists drives into oncoming traffic

Big Splash water park is located in Tsawwassen. (submitted photo)
Big Splash reopens Canada Day with changes to keep the water park ‘safe for everyone’

Executive Hotels & Resorts has owned and operated the attraction since 2017

Elgin Park Secondary students rally for climate change outside of their South Surrey in 2019. (Nick Greenizan photo)
City of Surrey set to host online climate-action panel

June 23 Zoom event to include speakers, question-and-answer period

(Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey council moves to reduce parking along rapid transit corridors

This also targets rental housing developments in Rapid Transit Areas

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says re-opening B.C.’s border to the U.S. ‘is not in our best interest’ right now. (B.C. Government photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry (B.C. Government photo)
B.C. records 113 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, four deaths

Vaccination of young people rising quickly, near 75 per cent

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S President Joe Biden shake hands during their meeting at the ‘Villa la Grange’ in Geneva, Switzerland in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
Biden says meeting with Putin not a ‘kumbaya moment’

But U.S. president asserted Russian leader is interested in improved relations, averting a Cold War

Vancouver Giants will return to the ice on Oct. 8, hosting the Prince George Cougars at Langley Events Centre. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Vancouver Giants will renew division rivalry with Cougars when season resumes in October

First game on Langley Events Centre home ice since February of last year

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

Most Read