Two Williams Lake Prospects minor fastball teams got a taste of provincial competition during the weekend in Smithers at the BC Minor Fastball Championships.
The Williams Lake U12 Prospects minor fastball team hit it out of the park at the tournament, playing to a bronze medal. The U14 Prospects, with a young, inexperienced team, meanwhile, exceeded all coaches’ expectations at the tournament.
On the U12 side, fielding a team of 11 players, the Prospects played their hearts out, said coaches Allen and Jen French.
“It’s one of those things where Jen and I have always promoted hard work and hustle and these kids have really bought into it,” Allen said. “I kind of feel sorry for the parents. Practices are two hours and these kids still don’t want to leave the field. We had a three-hour break between games and they were off on the spare field playing away.”
The U12 Prospects opened the tournament with a four-game round robin, finishing with a three-win, one-loss record with wins over Smithers, Hazelton and Barriere, and a loss to Houston, landing them a spot in the playoffs.
There, they again met Houston.
“It was like watching the Little League World Series live,” Allen said. “One inning we’d go up three, then they’d get three, and on and on. It was tied right to the last inning, but they ended up winning. It was a very emotional game. A lot of sweat and tears and everything.”
The top four teams then moved on to Sunday’s games, where the Prospects faced Terrace in its opener.
“The boys just came out to play,” Allen said. “We ended up mercying them in five innings, ahead seven runs.”
That put the Prospects in a duel with last year’s provincial champions, Clearwater for a chance to earn a spot in the final, or finish with the bronze medal.
“We lost to Clearwater by two runs, 12-10,” he said. “It was a nailbiter every game.”
Allen said they left the tournament feeling extremely proud of all the boys’ efforts.
“The talent level was pretty impressive,” he said. “Their hard work all year paid off at the end, and thanks to the parents for putting up with us.”
They also thanked Dusty Coombes at Western Financial for the jersey sponsor, and Tammy at Lo’s Florist for the Subway donation to each player and Marc Caron from Horsefly Service.
Most valuable players for the team’s games went to Jared Telford, Hayden French, Landon Coombes, Levi Weir, Caen Passeri and Blake Pigeon.
The U14 Prospects, after seven games, finished fifth out of seven teams.
Coach Liselle Pierce, who co-coached the team alongside Mike Rife, said of 13 of the players they took to the tournament, two had played fastball before, and were competing in their first year learning the sport.
“We saw a steep learning curve,” Pierce said. “A huge difference from game one to game seven.
“Taking a young, inexperienced team to provincials our expectations were to learn how to play competitive baseball and have fun doing so, and from watching the boys’ first game Friday morning to our final game Sunday, there was a huge jump in confidence and understanding of the game.”
She said among the things she saw were how, defensively, the boys were calling the play ahead of time, making some double plays, learning how to work a hotbox drill, and even perfectly executing a trick play for an out.
“Offensively, the boys gained the confidence to swing their bats, and once they made contact there was no stopping them,” Pierce said.
Kai Hilton and Jackson Altwasser both hit home runs during the tournament, a highlight for the players, Pierce said.
“Now the boys have had a season of ball under their belts, and played seven competitive games in provincials, they will be prepped and ready to have a successful 2019 ball season.”