The White Rock All-Stars got their Little League World Series experience off to quite a start this past week, as the Canadian champions hammered Italy 12-2 Thursday in their opening game of the prestigious tournament, then followed up Sunday with a second straight win.
On Sunday morning, the Canadians defeated Venezuela 7-3 and now find themselves in uncharted territory for a White Rock team at the Little League World Series - undefeated through two games. In White Rock’s three other trips to the Williamsport, Pa.-hosted event - in 2007, ‘08 and ‘15 - no team has won more than once.
White Rock – yet to lose a game this summer - now has a few days off to prepare for what will likely be their toughest opponent so far – Japan, which defeated South Korea 4-1 Sunday morning and is the only other international team to win its first two World Series games.
The Canada-Japan game is scheduled for Wednesday at noon.
“It’s a great way to start the tournament, that’s for sure,” White Rock head coach Ryan Hefflick told Peace Arch News following Thursday’s first win.
As well, Thursday’s victory marked the first time since White Rock first qualified for the World Series in ‘07, that the team won its tournament opener.
Back in ‘07, that White Rock squad opened with a 13-5 victory over a Saudi Arabia team that was made up primarily of players whose parents were American ex-pats. That team eventually bowed out of the tournament – which included a round-robin, as opposed to the current double-knockout format – with a 1-2 win-loss record.
Ten years later, against Italy, White Rock was led by the powerful bat of Chase Marshall, who clubbed two home runs in the first two innings – including a bases-clearing grand slam in the third frame.
“He barreled up a couple balls that I don’t think have come down yet,” said Hefflick of his team’s slugging first baseman.
“Obviously, that was a huge contribution for us.”
White Rock led 3-1 after two-and-a-half innings, then tacked on seven runs in their half of the third frame to take a commanding 10-1 lead.
The team tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning to extend the lead to 12-1, and though Italy scored once themselves in the inning to make it 12-2, it was not enough to bridge the game closer than 10 runs, and Little League’s mercy-rule was invoked, ending the game.
Reece Usselman was strong on the pitcher’s mound for the the White Rock squad, striking out six batters in two-and-one-thirds of an inning. In the bottom of the third inning, he swapped positions with Marshall, who struck out two Italy batters.
The hot start for the Canadians was in stark contrast to the team’s last game in the nationals, in which the B.C. champs had to weather a first-inning storm and come from behind to defeat Quebec in the Canadian Little League Championships.
Hefflick told PAN that, after the win Thursday, he was told that his team’s 10-run margin of victory was the biggest ever recorded by a Canadian team at the tournament. Canada first played in the Little League World Series in 1952.
Sunday’s game against the Latin American region champs was also chock full of home runs, especially early. Reid Hefflick blasted a three-run homer in the first inning to give the Peninsula squad and early lead, and though Venezuela answered back with a home run of their own, the lead was extended over the next two inning, thanks to a home run from Canada’s Nathaniel Factor and a runs-scoring double from Robert Orr.
Hefflick was also strong on the mound, striking out seven over three-and-two-thirds innings before being relieved by Usselman, who struck out three batters himself.