June 18th, 2024

Little League U10s play a game for the ages

By Dale Woodard on September 1, 2021.

The Lethbridge Little League Minor AAA U10 baseball team got both a comeback and a shutdown inning all wrapped up in one.

They’ve also got a provincial banner – earned on their Canola Harvest Field home diamond, no less – to show for it following an extra innings win over Calgary West in the Minor AAA Alberta Prairies Sectional Championship Sunday afternoon.

Down four runs, Lethbridge battled back to tie the game and force extra innings.

Once they grabbed the lead, it took all of five pitches to secure the game and the provincial title.

“I will say, you may not see a 10-year-old baseball game as good as that game,” said U10 head coach Jaime Thomas.

“There was one walk that whole game in seven full innings. It was a really fantastic experience. I have a lot of praise for those young boys out there.

“They did wonderfully. They competed under pressure and in the end they have provincial banner to show for it. We came up against a team from Calgary West that was really strong team with some very strong arms and very good defensively and offensively.”

Lethbridge starter Hayden Charlesworth threw six complete innings to earn the win on the bump.

“Hayden pitched a wonderful game, six complete games under his pitch limit of 75 pitches that kept us in the game the whole time.”

Still, it was a quiet start for the home side, literally and figuratively.

“Through the better part of the game it was a pretty muted dugout,” said Thomas. “We couldn’t really get anything going against the strong pitching. Myself and the rest of the coaches told them to hang in because pitchers start to tire and it gets later in the game and there’s a little more anxiety.”

When Lethbridge got some runners on in the fifth, Thomas noted a bit more swagger in his dugout.

“You could see the body language change a little bit more for our team, a little bit more confidence and we were getting more bats on balls,”he said.

“Once we got to that extra inning we had a ton of confidence at the plate. We had seen a very strong pitcher to come in and close the game for them, but it was also the third time we had seen him this year. It was something we let the top of our order know (that) he was going to be a steady diet of fastballs and there’s not going to be much outside the zone, so be patient, take a good look for the fastball and hit that fastball, which is exactly what they did.”

Lethbridge brought the go-ahead runs across, but were still faced with the task of shutting down Calgary in the bottom of the inning.

“We had to hold them in the bottom of that seventh inning,” said Thomas.

“We had a quick meeting with the defence just to check their alignment and it was a five-pitch inning in the bottom of the seventh, a slow roller to second base, a pop fly to short stop and a slow roller up the middle. It was incredible for those boys to experience a win of that nature. The parents too. The parents were unbelievable for us this weekend, the tournament coordinators and everybody involved in the tournament.”

Winning in the confines of Canola Harvest Field added to the provincial title.

“To me (it’s) one of the nicest facilities in Canada to play a Little League baseball game in,” said Thomas. “We had great community support, tons of friends and family were able to watch.”

A core of four players will return next year to the team of nine and 10-year-olds.

“They’ll have a really solid start to that team and a ton of great experience,” said Thomas. “Being part of a Prairie Championship team in your first year of competitive baseball really sets the table for future success for those kids.”

Eight kids will move on to the Major Division next year.

“They’ll take a bit step up in calibre and size of players,” said Thomas.

“We had a nice mix of speed and power and we were very strong defensively. For a nine and 10-year-old baseball team it was a very complete team.”

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