Whalley Little League Majors Allstars team won the Little League BC championship in Trail on Saturday (July 28). The boys are off to Montreal, to compete in the Little League nationals from Aug. 2 to 11. (Submitted photo)

Surrey’s Whalley Little League Majors Allstars are B.C. champs

‘This could be the summer of their lifetime’ says Whalley coach as boys head to nationals

The “vibe was electric” when some young Surrey boys dominated to win the Little League BC championship in Trail this past Saturday.

“It’s overwhelming and exciting,” said Mike Marino, one of the coaches of the 12-year-old boys. “It’s been a whirlwind.”

The Whalley Little League Majors Allstars team is now off to Montreal this week, to represent B.C. in the Little League nationals that run from Aug. 2 to 11.

“We’re very confident,” said Marino on Monday, as he prepared for the team to fly out the next day. “We do believe we’re the best team in Canada.”

If the boys win the Canadian title, they’ll be off to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA from Aug. 16 to 26.

“We told them this could be the summer of their lifetime,” he continued. “I myself didn’t get this far when I was 12 years old. I didn’t make it out of the districts. I don’t know if they realize how hard it is to get where they’re going.”’

See also: WHALLEY LITTLE LEAGUE: Baseball is ‘a part of life’ for those with 60-year-old association

See also: Little League baseball honour for Surrey-raised soccer star Sydney Leroux

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The team fought hard to win the provincial tourney, said Marino, but it began with a 5-3 loss to Lynn Valley.

They were up 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth when they pulled out their “ace” pitcher Ian Huang (to save for later in the series), who Marino described as “the best pitcher in B.C. by far, and maybe in Canada.”

Marino said the team then “made a couple of really bad errors,” that ended with Lynn Valley tying it up.

“So we went into a seventh inning. One of our boys Kai Sheck hit us a two-run homer to put us up 3-1. We thought we had the game in the bag after that but unfortunately we lost,” he said. “With the bases loaded, one of the boys hit a grand slam home run to walk us off and win the game. There was 100, 200 people watching this game. People wanted to watch because they knew we were a couple of the top teams around.”

Game two was played against host-team Trail, where the Whalley boys dominated.

“We ended up mercying them. If you’re up by more than 10 runs in four innings, then the game’s over. We were feeling pretty confident after that, it showed who we really were,” said coach Marino.

Next, the boys played Vancouver-based Little Mountain, winning 7-6.

“They have good players and can hit the ball well. We knew that was going to be a tight game.”

Another strong Whalley pitcher, Zeaden Pleasants, “pounded the zone.”

“He threw a lot of strikes, just strike after strike after strike,” noted Marino, noting another player, Dio Gama, had a shot in the game that was “massive.”

“It might’ve been further than I can hit the ball,” he added.

In game four, the boys celebrated another win, this time 6-2 against Beacon Hill.

The last game was against New Westminster, who Marino said the team “did not take lightly — they’re a decent team.”

But they dominated once more with a final score of 15-0.

“We ended up mercying them in three innings. If you’re up by 15 in three innings, you mercy them. We were up 12-0 in the third and my son Joey Marino, he hit a three-run home run to send us off the field. It was a walk-off,” said Marino.

In the Friday night semi-final game, Whalley matched up with Little Mountain and conquered, winning 6-2.

Jordan Jaramillo and Zaedan Pleasants pitched for the Whalley team, saving “ace” Ian Huang for the final.

“They had to burn their two top pitchers to get to the semi-final, and we didn’t have to burn anyone,” said Marino.

The Saturday final saw Whalley face Lynn Valley for the provincial crown.

They were, of course, victorious, winning 6-1.

“We have a little bit of history there,” said Marino. “I think they were feeling confident they were going to beat us even though they know we had Ian (Huang) ready to go. We saved him. We thought we could get by the semi-finals with the two other guys. We saved our ace for the final.”

In that game, the team’s “big boy” Dio Gama was “visibly upset” when the ump called a foul ball after the pitcher hit Gama with a ball on the forearm.

“But the very next pitch he hit one about 330 feet. It actually dented the mountain,” said Marino. “The backdrop of the fence, there’s a five foot gap and it’s the start of the mountain. He crushed the ball so hard it stuck inside the mountain (pictured below). It’s implanted in the mountain, people took a picture of it, they couldn’t believe it.”

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From there, Marino said the team knew: “We’re going to Montreal.”

“We had Ian on the mound, Dio locked it in. The whole team hit the ball, just hit after hit after hit. We crushed it.”

Marino said the reality of their achievement hasn’t sunk in yet.

“I talked to some of the boys last night and a lot of them don’t realize what they’re in for,” he laughed. “There’s going to be people who fly in and come to watch you just for this. Coaches coming in, younger kids asking for autographs. In Whalley we have a rich history in this kind of thing, us coaches, we know what to expect. I don’t think the kids do. They’re excited, but they have no idea. They’re going to be treated like professional players. First class athletes.”

Marino noted the Whalley Little League Association is tiny, compared to other leagues. “We have 280 kids, most have 700 to 1,500. So you talk about the little engine that could. It’s crazy what we do with the amount of kids we have.”

Marino credited the league’s success to its mantra: work hard, and “family first.”

“The boys love each other, they treat each other like brothers,” said Marino. “They play for each other.”

The national final is set for Saturday, Aug. 11. CBC Sports will livestream the final game at cbcsports.ca and the CBC Sports app at 8 a.m. PT on Aug. 11. It will be broadcast on CBC later that day at 11 a.m. PT.

If the boys win the Canadian title, they’ll be off to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA from Aug. 16 to 26.



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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