Sports

Little League provincials start this weekend

After months of hard work and organization, Trail Little League is ready to welcome the best in B.C. baseball to Andy Bileski Park this weekend with the 9-10 Provincial championship set to hit the diamond on Saturday.

Co-chairs Keith and Clare DeWitt and the rest of the tournament committee will welcome close to 200 players, coaches, umpires, parents, and supporters to Trail for the week-long provincial tournament.

“It’s all coming to a head now,” said Keith on Tuesday. “It’s been pretty hectic this week but it’s coming together, we have lots to do but it’s going to be big.”

Trail was granted the host city by B.C. Little League last summer as a result of a very successful B.C. Major Little League championship for the 11-12 Trail All-Star team in 2012.

“That’s why we got it back this year,” said DeWitt. “One of the reasons is because they put on such a good provincials, and the field is top notch and is exactly what Little League (B.C.) wants, and they know that we could do it, so they gave it to us again two years later for the different age group. We have to live up to what they did two years ago and sometimes that’s tough too.”

Since then the committee has rallied sponsors, lined up volunteers, recruited grounds crew, found accommodation, and enlisted umpires, and now will put all their preparation and organization to the test as they start with their banquet and coaches meeting tonight, with the first pitch thrown Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

“We probably started it in October last year, but there’s only so much we can do through the winter, but just lining up sponsorships and arranging hotels and then this last couple months it’s been  all the details now and trying to get all the jobs done, it has been a pretty big task.”

The 9-10 team was selected in early June and has had about a month to prepare for the provincials. The team topped off their month of hard work and everyday practice with a third-place finish at the very competitive Firecracker tournament on the weekend in Kalispell, Montana.

“We’re as ready as we’re going to be,” said coach Jim Maniago. “It would have been nice to have a little bit more time to fine tune a little bit, because it’s such a short amount of time, but we’ve been going every night so we’re as ready as we’re going to be.”

The 12-member team is a well rounded, with talent evenly distributed throughout the lineup. The minor Orioles have a solid core of pitching with a balanced hitting attack, and a dependable defence.

“It’s pretty cool, with this team I wouldn’t say we have one guy that is our guy, it seems like every game different kids do different things to help us win, whether someone has a great game pitching or someone gets a couple key hits, we’re pretty balanced that way.”

Pitching is key in most baseball games, but in provincial tournaments it becomes even more crucial with  pitch counts playing a strategic role in just how long a coach will leave his star thrower in a game.

“With the pitching limits, it’s different – it’s not like running the Orioles,” said Maniago. “It’s not really baseball, it’s a chess match more than anything, and you really have to plan, and plan your pitchers. No one is going to roll out a guy for the whole game, you just can’t, especially early in the tournament, so depth is huge, and we have more depth than we have had in the last few years.”

Players that throw 20 pitches or less can throw the next day, while those that throw between 21 and 35 will have to skip a day, 36-50 pitches require two days rest, 51-65-three days rest, and 66 or more will have to take four days off.

Maniago has prepared his team well giving all the players a chance to pitch during the dozen games they’ve played in preparation.

“All of our kids have pitched during the season, but we’ve kind of got our seven or eight guys we can throw in there, but like I said, the other guys, if we needed to, I wouldn’t hesitate to put the other guys in.”

Trail will be tested mightily in its first match, as they face perennial powerhouse Hastings at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Victoria’s Beacon Hill at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday they play White Rock, Highlands, and Dunbar respectively with all Trail’s games going at 5:30 p.m. at Andy Bilesky Park. The opening ceremonies will go at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

“They are all going to be pretty good,” says Maniago. “I don’t know if we’ve played the calibre of teams we’re going to see, but that’s going to be the measuring stick, and our first game is going to be a huge measuring stick, Hastings is typically a favourite coming in . . . but you don’t get here without being good, so there isn’t going to be an easy game, we’re going to be fighting every game.”

Trail Little League can still use volunteers for the week, to lend a hand contact Ketih or Clare at 231-8187 or sign up at traillittleleague.ca.

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