By Will Desautelle
Coquitlam Little League out of British Columbia will represent the Canada Region in the Little League Baseball® World Series after defeating Diamond Baseball Little League of Quebec, 6-3, in the championship game.
Coquitlam Little League finished the tournament with a 7-1 record. Its only loss coming to the Quebec team earlier in the tournament. Coquitlam outscored its opponents, 62-33, in the regional tournament and will be just the second Coquitlam team ever to play in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Following a recent team practice at Little League Volunteer Stadium on the Little League International complex in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Manager Bruce Dorwart reflected on Coquitlam’s resilient effort at the regional tournament and discussed the World Series expectations.
Q: This year marks just the second time ever that Coquitlam Little League will represent Canada in the Little League Baseball World Series. What does that mean for you team?
A: It means a lot. You know, it’s been 35 years (1984 was the last time). I played in Coquitlam Little League myself. I was on the team as a 12-year old in 1983. I watched the team one year later, so it is kind of sweet for me to have a Coquitlam team come back here is quite an accomplishment and pretty special for our organization.
Q: In 14 of the last 15 years, a team from British Columbia has represented Canada at the Little League World Series. Why do you think that province has been so dominant in the Canada Region?
A: I think there are a couple of main reasons. The Vancouver area does not get the winter or the climate like the rest of Canada does, so you can play baseball outside, anywhere from 8-10 months per year. Players can get a lot more reps, and a lot more baseball. In turn, we just have a lot more kids that play baseball in the Vancouver area, which means more facilities, better facilities, and a lot of good coaching. There is a bit of a rich history of Major Leaguers that have come through the Vancouver and Victoria areas, and it really captures the kids. The number of kids here that play organized baseball is a lot compared to the rest of Canada.
Q: In the regional tournament, your team lost to Quebec early on and then came back to beat them in the championship game. How did your team bounce back?
A: We had already clinched a spot in the semifinals when we played them for the first time, so we intentionally didn’t want to show a whole lot. They went after us and we didn’t want to show our top two or three pitchers. The team played an amazing game in the final. Our starter, Matt Shanley, went 14 batters before he reached his pitch limit, struck out 13 of the 14. He was throwing really hard and we got a couple of timely home runs. Five of our six runs were off of home runs.
Q: Your first game is against the Mexico Region, which boasts a deep pitching staff led by four players who can throw over 70 mph. How is your team preparing for that match-up?
A: We’re teaching the kids to choke up a little bit more and shorten their swings – they’ve got to be quicker. The Quebec pitcher we faced in the regional final was throwing in the upper 60s. We haven’t faced pitching in the 70s, so this is going to be more of a challenge. We realize that, so we’ve got to get quicker swings out of the kids.
Q: Your assistant coach, Cole Bertsch, throws live batting practice to the kids before games. How has that routine helped with your team’s development throughout the year?
A: Cole was a pitcher at the university level and he’s got a live arm and a bit of a rubber arm. It’s a ritual with us. We like to get to the field two hours before game time and throw live batting practice for an hour so the players can get a good 25-30 cuts before every game. Cole will throw in that 65-70 range, so they’re seeing good zip before a game, and I think it’s very important. Most teams you just see their coaches throw whiffle balls, but these guys are getting more live batting practice. I think it really helps our team and that’s why we were the best hitting team coming out of Canada.