July 24th, 2024

It all comes down to this

By Ryan McCracken on August 12, 2017.

White Rock All Stars catcher Matleo Manzi fires up his dugout after hitting a 2-RBI double against the Lethbridge Southwest All Stars in Friday's Canadian Little League Championship semifinal at Lovell McDonnell Field. -- NEWS PHOTO RYAN MCCRACKEN


Timing is everything.

Mirabel Diamond Academy infielder William Brault and Port Arthur Nationals outfielder Danchuk both found the bleachers twice in Friday afternoon’s Canadian Little League Championship semifinal at Lovell McDonnell Field. The difference, Brault’s two swings came with 7 RBI, and included a sixth-inning grand slam that held up as the difference in an 8-5 victory.

“It was a very special moment because we don’t have this a lot of times in our lives,” said Brault, whose team will play for the national championship against White Rock on Saturday at 10 a.m.. The winner will represent Canada at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. “I think we can beat them.”

Brault’s moonshot to right-centre stretched a one-run lead to five entering the bottom of the sixth. While Danchuk did all he could with a two-run homer in response, Leonard Lamoureux closed out the game and punched Diamond’s ticket to the final after four solid innings of relief work.

Quebec’s Diamond Academy opened up to a 4-0 lead after getting the better of Nats starter Liam Willmore with back-to-back home runs in the first, a 3-RBI bomb from Brault and a follow-up solo shot by Joel Ouellette.

“It was his day,” Mirabel Diamond Academy head coach Benoit Blais said of Brault. “He’s clutch. All the time in this tournament, this guy’s clutch.”

Ontario-based Port Arthur responded with Danchuk’s three-run shot off Christophe Lepage Mancini in the bottom of the first to cut the deficit down to one run. Mancini left after two innings, allowing three runs on three hits before giving way to Lamoureux.

Nats pitcher Jack Pineau entered to silence Diamond’s offence yet again over the next four innings, but Diamond managed to chase him to start the sixth before Brault put the game away with Danchuk on the mound. Pineau struck out 10 in Friday’s loss and nine more in Port Arthur’s 9-4 win over Diamond in the round robin, helping his team to the second seed in the semifinals. Nationals manager Tony Lachimea admits he took a chance by opting to start Willmore in an attempt to save Pineau for the championship game, but added he’s proud of his team for being two wins from Williamsport.

“(Willmore) struggled a bit in the first inning, then we went with Pineau and shut them down like we knew we would. Sometimes you’ve got to take a chance, but it’s disappointing,” said Lachimea. “They don’t score those four runs (in the sixth), Danchuk hits a two-run shot and this game is over.”

Diamond remains an underdog entering Saturday’s championship, but they came closest to defeating White Rock with a 6-5 loss in the round robin. Blais says he’ll be coming with his top two pitchers, Stefano Paolucci and Raphael Bourdeau, ready to take the mound.

White Rock 6, Lethbridge 0

Chase Marshall brought his best to the hill for Friday’s Canadian Little League Championship semifinal at Lovell McDonnell Field.

The White Rock All Stars starting pitcher struck out 12 while facing just two over the minimum in a 6-0 complete game victory over the Lethbridge Southwest All Stars to secure his team’s place in Saturday’s 10 a.m. final against Quebec’s Mirabel Diamond Academy.

“My catcher and my coach were calling it perfectly so I was just trying to focus on hitting my spots and it worked out,” said Marshall, adding it was one of the best games he’s ever thrown. “It’s probably one of the top ones.”

Marshall managed to limit Lethbridge to just one hit — a first-inning double from David Stewart — and no walks while striking out 10 of the 11 players he faced at least once on 84 pitches through six complete innings. Even Lethbridge coach Wade Pearce admits, once Marshall got into his rhythm there was no getting him out of it.

“He’s a good pitcher. He’s got good tilt and stuff like that. Although we knew it was coming, fastball majority of the time, it’s tough to hit,” said Pearce. “I bet out of his 84 pitches he threw 75 strikes.”

White Rock coach Keith Fluet added it’s been a challenging season for Marshall, who suffered a shoulder injury earlier in the year and has been working ever since toward throwing a game like Friday’s.

“He’s done a lot of hard work rehabbing,” said Fluet, whose White Rock squad is now 7-0 at the tournament. “I thought this was just a fantastic outing from him.”

While Lethbridge’s tournament ended early, Pearce says his Southwest squad can take solace in limiting the tournament’s most prolific offence to just six runs — after falling 12-2 to White Rock in the round robin. Starter Riley Pearce posted two shutout innings before allowing four runs in the third and parting the game after two walks to start the fifth. Stewart stepped in and closed out the remaining three frames, holding White Rock to two runs on five hits and three walks.

“They did well. They battled,” Pearce said of his pitchers. “I thought our first guy came in and did exactly what we wanted him to do, give up minimal runs. We had one bad inning.”

Lachlan Scardina led White Rock’s offence with 1 RBI in a 3-for-4 outing, while Matleo Manzi went 1-for-1 with 1 RBI, Nathaniel Factor was 1-for-2 with an RBI walk.

“They came out and worked hard today,” said Fluet, adding the mood is high heading into Saturday. “The boys are nice and light and we’re ready to go.”

If there’s one area that still requires fine-tuning, says Fluet, it’s on the base paths. White Rock was caught in a handful of rundowns after poor decisions to advance on passed balls, and left 10 runners stranded in the victory.

“We’re going to have a little meeting about that today,” said Fluet. “We’ll discuss the finer points about advancing on a passed ball and when not to advance on a passed ball.”

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