A prayer to the baseball gods was answered and now a team of 11 and 12-year-olds from Langley Baseball are off to the provincial championships.
For the past four years, the White Rock South Surrey Baseball Association has been Langley’s nemesis as the two teams moved up the age ranks.
In four years of playing against one another, starting when they were seven and eight-years-old, Langley had yet to beat their Surrey rivals.
Just last week, at South Surrey Athletic Park, the Langley Major All-Stars didn’t do themselves any favours, committing several errors as White Rock won the game 5-1 at the 11/12 district championships.
The victory gave White Rock top spot for the playoffs, while Langley was second.
On Sunday, they defeated Whalley 4-1 in the semifinals, while White Rock took care off North Langley 6-1.
“It has always been in the back of the boys’ minds,” said Langley manager Dean Cantalon, of the group’s inability to get past White Rock South Surrey.
“Just that mental part of getting it done against them.”
On Monday night, Langley finally came through.
Trailing 4-1 and down to their final three outs, the local team rallied to score four runs before mowing down the White Rock batters one-two-three to secure the 5-4 victory.
“Pray to the baseball gods and good things will happen,” Cantelon said about the coaching staff’s message to the team.
The prayer was answered in the form of the Langley players finally getting their bats going.
After Yi An Pan and his brother Yi Fan Pan both reached base to start the sixth, Ian Burns drove them home with a two-run triple cutting the lead to 4-3.
Burns was cashed in by Connor McCreath to tie the score and then Riley Ens delivered the go-ahead RBI.
Yi An Pan, who had come on to pitch in the middle of the game, set down all three batters in the sixth, including two by strikeout to claim the district 3 title for Langley.
“We weren’t finding the holes in the first few innings, but in the sixth, our bats woke up,” Cantelon said, adding that the team also provided solid defence, unlike the earlier loss to White Rock where they committed what the coach called “silly” errors.
In the team’s round robin games, they defeated Whalley 8-2, North Langley 14-1 and Coquitlam 11-0 but lost 5-1 to White Rock.
Yi An Pan, Cole Cantelon and Ens picked up the wins on the mound, with Yi Fan Pan, Yi An Pan, Cantelon and Nick Atkinson belting home runs.
In the semifinals, Cantelon again earned the victory, with Yi An Pan hitting a home run.
The Langley squad has been on a great run, since they came together last month.
In exhibition play, they went 13-0, outscoring their foes 95-8.
As the district 3 champions Langley advances to the provincial championships in Victoria. That tournament begins Saturday (July 23) with the winner advancing to the national championships in North Vancouver to see which team will represent Canada at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
“The kids are pretty pumped,” Cantelon said about extending their season.
As for any thoughts of moving beyond provincials, the coaching staff has the players focusing on provincials.
“In our view, it is one hurdle at a time,” he said.
To help offset the costs of going to Victoria, the team is looking for local businesses who may want to sponsor them. Anyone wanting to help out can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The team consists of: Cole Cantelon, Yi An Pan, Colby Ring, Trevor Miller, Trevor Alcos, Ian Burns, Yi Fan Pan, Ken Dubois, Connor McCreath, Nick Atkinson and Riley Ens. Coaches are Rick Burns and Jason Andrew and manager is Dean Cantelon.