The Little League World Series dream is over for Whalley Major Allstars.
The Surrey-based team, playing as Team Canada in front of a stadium crowd of more than 2,600 baseball fans, fell 9-4 to Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon (Aug. 22) in an elimination game in Williamsport.
Whalley was up against a squad from the hurricane-hit town of Guayama.
The Caribbean reps had their bats going the whole game, knocking in a pair of homers to keep the game out of reach for the Surrey boys. Jordan Jaramillo got the start on the mound and, after throwing the most pitches he could under tournament rules, was replaced by Cole Balkovec.
For Puerto Rico, much of their damage was done in the third inning, when they scored four runs to go up 5-2. Later that inning, Team Canada scored two runs off Dio Gama’s bases-loaded hit, narrowing the gap to 5-4.
In the first inning, Andre Juco scored on a Nate Colina hit to tie the score at one, after a solo homer for Puerto Rico in the opening frame.
The teams were supposed to play Tuesday, but the game was rained out and rescheduled for Wednesday, with the loser elimated and the winner moving on to play in Thursday’s International bracket semifinal.
Heading into action Wednesday, Whalley had won two games and lost one during the 10-day, double-elimination tournament, which began Aug. 16 and ends with the championship game this coming Sunday (Aug. 26).
On Monday, Whalley lived to play another day at the tournament after scoring a 6-4 win over Mexico in a must-win game at Volunteer Stadium. It was the second nail-biter of the tourney for the Surrey squad, as Mexico had loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth and final inning. But relief pitcher Nate Colina shut the door for the big W, snagging a line-drive hit for the game’s final out.
“We know we have the support of everyone back home across the country, especially in our neck of the woods,” head coach Mike Marino told reporters after the game.
“It’s a good feeling. We’re happy to be here and still playing baseball.”
On Saturday, in a “do or die” contest that followed an opening-game loss the night before, Whalley won a nail-biter in extra innings to avoid elimination. Team Canada beat Spain 2-1 in dramatic fashion, winning in the bottom of the 10th inning when Joey Marino, son of head coach Mike Marino, drove in North Delta’s Colina to score the winning run with a hard single up the middle.
In their tourney-opener on Friday, Canada fell 8-3 to a big, strong team from Panama in their rain-delayed opening game in Williamsport, setting up a more difficult schedule for the Surrey-area boys, in pursuit of Canada’s first-ever championship at the tournament.
Team Canada plays in the International bracket, which includes seven other teams. Sunday’s championship game will be played between the U.S. and International pool winners.
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.
In Williamsport, they’ve been enjoying the priceless baseball adventure, which has included being interviewed on TV, meeting members of the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies prior to their regular-season MLB game played Sunday, and befriending fellow young athletes from around the globe.
The previous Sunday, most of the Whalley players, along with parents and coaches, made the eight-hour bus trip from Mirabel, Quebec, to Williamsport, for games played at a baseball complex that includes the 3,300-seat Howard J. Lamade Stadium and the smaller Volunteer Stadium.
One player who didn’t initially make the trip south was Dio Gama, a Johnston Heights-area 13-year-old whose family wouldn’t let him cross the border until Canadian immigration authorities granted him a temporary travel permit to play in the tournament. Later that week, with a chaperone from Whalley Little League, he made his way to Williamsport overnight, on a flight to Toronto and road trip to Pennsylvania, and was in the lineup for Team Canada’s opening game with just hours to spare.
In 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.
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.
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.