Whalley’s Dio Gama, who joined Team Canada’s just hours prior to their first game in Williamsport, rounds a base Friday during the squad’s opening game against Panama. (Photo: courtesy Little League Baseball and Softball).

‘Do or die’ time for Whalley, who fell in first game of Little League World Series

Team Canada goes down to powerful Panama in Williamsport, plays Spain Saturday

A big, strong team from Panama came out swinging in Whalley’s rain-delayed opening game at the Little League World Series on Friday, crushing Team Canada in the process.

Whalley Major Allstars, the national champs, fell 8-3 in the game played at Volunteer Stadium in Williamsport, PA.

Panama jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, before Whalley answered with a single run off Dio Gama’s bat in the bottom of the frame.

A three-run homer gave Panama a 6-1 lead in the top of the second inning. At that point, starting pitcher Ian Huang was moved to first base in a swap with Jordan Jaramillo, who did well to strike out the side in the third. He was replaced in the fourth by Zeaden Pleasants, who was relieved by Cole Balkovec in the fifth.

Panama added a pair in their half of the sixth inning.

Whalley battled to get a rally going in their last at-bat, putting a pair on base early. Two runs scored on wild pitches, thrown at nearly 80 mph by the smoke-thrower from Panama, but that was it.

Panama had nine hits in the opening game, Whalley five.

With the loss, Whalley next plays Saturday (Aug. 18) starting at 3 p.m. (Pacific time) against Europe-Africa, in a “do or die” game that will see the loser dumped from the Championship round. All games are televised on TSN and also at tsn.ca.

Team Canada plays in the International bracket, which includes seven other teams. A total of 16 teams play at the Little League World Series, a 10-day tournament that concludes on Aug. 26 with a championship game between the U.S. and International pool winners.

CLICK HERE to see the full schedule.

Rain delayed the start of Friday’s game for an hour, as it was supposed to get going at 6 p.m. Eastern time (3 p.m. Pacific).

Whalley’s 13-player roster includes Joey Marino, Andre Juco, Kai Sheck, Ian Huang, Zeaden Pleasants, Nate Colina, Colten Myers, Jaren Ashbee, Ty Grewal, Cole Balkovec, Dio Gama, Jordan Jaramillo and Mattias Brisson. They’re coached by Mike Marino, Lucky Pawa and Dean Mayencourt. Players and coaches on the team live in neighbourhoods across Surrey and North Delta.

• RELATED STORY: Ottawa intervenes to get 13-year-old ball player to Little League World Series.

In Mirabel, Quebec, during the Canadian Little League Championship, the Whalley squad went undefeated in eight games to win the national title on Aug. 11. They capped the tourney with a 11-0 victory over Team Atlantic (Glace Bay), in a game called after four innings due to the “mercy” rule of scoring 10 runs more than the competition.

On Sunday, the Whalley players, along with parents and coaches, made the eight-hour bus trip from Mirabel to Williamsport for games played at a baseball complex that includes the 3,300-seat Howard J. Lamade Stadium and the smaller Volunteer Stadium.

The team, during a summer to remember, booked its trip to Quebec on July 28 after winning the provincial title in Trail with a 6-1 victory over Lynn Valley.

This is the sixth time Whalley Little League has earned a trip to Williamsport (previously in 1973, 1978, 1997, 2005 and 2006), and the 21st time that a team from British Columbia has earned the nod, including 13 of the last 14 tournaments.

• RELATED STORY: WHALLEY LITTLE LEAGUE: Baseball is ‘a part of life’ for those with 60-year-old association, from 2016.

Last summer in Williamsport, a team from White Rock opened the Little League World Series with a 12-2 win over Team Italy. The team eventually placed third in the International bracket of the tourney. The 2017 Team Canada finished with a 2-2 record, first beating Italy and Venezuela (7-3), followed by losses to Japan (10-0) and Mexico (6-2).

• READ MORE: Team Canada ends World Series with 2-2 record, from 2017.

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Whalley, as Team Canada, in action against Panama (Team Latin America) on Friday during their opening game at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. (Photo: tsn.ca)

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