The North Delta Rays’ dominated this year’s 11U AAA Tier 2 provincials, sweeping both the tournament itself and the opening night skills competition.
The Rays went into the tournament having opened their season with a tournament win in Surrey and finishing with a 7-1 record in league play.
“Our goal every game, every practice, was to get better. That was kind of our standard and the team knew that,” head coach Jeff Stebbings told the Reporter. “The kids bought into that and were able to do it. Each day and each game and each practice we did get better, and it was fun to watch the kids excel.”
On Thursday, Aug. 1, the team set the tone for what was to come by winning all four skills competitions at Annieville Lions Park: Payton Harper won the home run derby; Adam Farnden, Lucas Stebbings, Noah Grant and Tyler Conway took first in the “around the horn” contest; Nathan Reynolds, Liam Vaz and Mylan Mingo triumphed in the catcher relay; and Tyler Nielsen, Aidan Nielsen, Matt McQuade and Jonas Hong were victorious in the base running relay.
“To win all four competitions on you home field on the first night … where every kid on the team, all 12 kids, received a first place medal that night, was just a great start to the weekend and just a really good confidence boost to them. I mean, they came in with the confidence and the swagger to do it and they held on to that all tournament,” Stebbings said.
“Throughout the whole season, I think every kid was able to step up at some point and contribute, and through the provincials that happened a lot. Every kids at some point … you can say that kid contributed in that moment. So I think it was a real team effort throughout the tournament, with everybody being able to step up and contribute.”
— North Delta Baseball (@ndbaseball1962) August 2, 2019
The team went 4-0 through two days of round robin play at provincials, beating the Vernon Canadians 5-1 and the Nanaimo Pirates 20-6 on Friday, Aug. 2, then the White Rock Tritons 7-5 and the Abbotsford Angels 14-10 on Saturday, Aug. 3.
The Rays went on to crush local rivals the Ladner Red Socks 12-3 in Sunday morning’s semi-final game before clinching first place with a 7-4 win over the North Langley Trappers.
“It was something else to watch, it was unbelievable to see them all excel on such a high level on such a big stage,” Stebbings said. “I don’t know if it’s ever been done, I don’t have the facts 100 per cent, but I would say going 6-0 in a provincial tournament and then winning the four skills competitions, I would say it’s very rare — if it’s ever been done.”
Throughout their six games, the Rays scored 65 runs while only allowing 29.
“You know, we all had the same goal in mind, to win provincials, and I believe the kids all peaked at the right time. Everything came together for the provincial tournament, the hitting, the field play … they really excelled throughout the tournament,” Stebbings said.
North Delta opened the scoring in Sunday’s final against the Trappers with a run in the first before giving themselves some breathing room with a big four-run second inning.
The Rays scored again in the third and the fourth innings to carry a 7-0 into the fifth.
Starting pitcher Nathan Reynolds threw four scoreless innings, but North Langley managed to claw one back by the end of the fifth to make it 7-1.
The Rays allowed three more unanswered runs in the final two innings but managed to hang on for the win.
— Coach Brent (@TheDinger) August 5, 2019
Stebbings said the keys to team’s success at provincials were the players’ close bonds with one another and the way they’d rally to support each other when the going got tough.
“At this age, things are going to happen, negative things — and in baseball in general things are going to happen — but I think the kids were really able to reset themselves after something negative happened and really bounce back from it,” he said.
“Kids can get down and they can hold on to that for a period of time and it really affects the whole mood of the team, whereas I really believe our kids were able to really bounce back and support one another if there was something that happened that wasn’t positive … an error or a strikeout or someone walks somebody. I think the kids really supported each other and were able really to reset and not let it affect them the rest of the game. I think we’re really mentally tough as a team.”
Though he stressed the win was a team effort, Stebbings highlighted the play of Reynolds and catcher Jonas Hong as standouts at the tournament.
Hong caught 30 of 36 innings over the weekend and pitched the other six, as well as hit the ball “extremely well,” Stebbings said.
“He kind of did everything, a jack-of-all-trades, but mentally he was so positive, he motivated so well, and his play was really exceptional.”
Reynolds, who pitched the final game and had a strong tournament at bat, also came in and closed Saturday’s game again the Tritons, cutting off momentum the team had built in the fifth and sixth innings and spoiling their comeback by striking out the last three batters.
“I’d say those were our two standouts, but again highlighting that everybody contributing at some point throughout the weekend allowed us to have the success that we did,” Stebbings said.
And that includes the parents and volunteers, without whom, Stebbings said, the North Delta Baseball Association would never have been able to host such an incredible tournament.
“The amount of work that [the parents] put in throughout this provincial, I mean, just volunteering and getting their kid to the park and throughout the season, I think the parents at this age have so much impact on the kids and on what goes on, and the amount of work they put in was over the top. It was a very well-run provincial because of the support we had from our parent group.”
— North Delta Baseball (@ndbaseball1962) August 5, 2019