There was no better way for the Trail Major All Stars to celebrate Canada Day than by winning gold at the 2018 Firecracker baseball tournament in Kalispell, Montana on Sunday.
Trail has come close to winning it all in past years but came up short. This time, the All Star team, made up of players from Trail, Nelson, Castlegar and Fruitvale, went through the six-team tournament undefeated, beating Medicine Hat AAA All Stars 8-1 in the final to capture the title.
“What a weekend,” said coach DJ Ashman. “This is the first time the Trail All Stars have won this tournament.
“It felt good. We’re still a work in progress, but we’re doing good and making a lot of great plays out there.”
Trail opened the tournament with a 3-0 victory over Lethbridge’s Southwest Little League All Stars on Friday, before playing to a 4-4 draw with Medicine Hat and taking out North Central All Stars 8-1 on Saturday.
In the playoff bracket on Sunday, Trail defeated a Castlegar/Nelson Hitmen team 20-2 in the semifinal to advance to the championship match against the same Canadian team they tied in the round robin.
Nelson pitcher Brady Augustin earned the start for Trail and also helped jump-start it’s offence by smashing a first-inning home run to give Trail a 2-0 lead, and what proved to be the winning run.
“He (Augustin) is a very composed kid, and understands what he needs to do to get guys out,” said Ashman. “He threw right around the 85 pitch (maximum) count, and struck out nine guys but also pitched to the strike zone to get the ground balls and allow the defence to make the plays.”
The All Stars stranded two on base in the second inning, but Owen Dixon drove in a run in the third for a 3-0 lead.
The Trail bats came alive in the fifth inning as Willem Terwoord and Trevor Knight both reached base on back-to-back singles. Then Calvin Morrison, who went 2-for-2, stepped up and belted a three-run home run to give Trail some insurance.
The runs kept coming as Nathan Simm singled then scored on a Max Leonard double, and in the sixth inning, Augustin singled, Hayden White took one for the team on an HBP, and Jeff Hanham’s hit cashed in Augustin for Trail’s final run and the 8-1 victory.
In addition to Augustin’s effort on the mound, the Trail defence was stellar holding Medicine Hat to just a single run. Augustin went the distance striking out nine, allowing only three hits, a run, and two walks on 81 pitches, while going 2-for-3 at the plate.
“Good defence with some timely hitting (were key),” said Ashman. “They threw a kid who was probably about six-foot-two, he’s throwing the ball really hard, he’s got a great curve ball, and Medicine Hat went into the game thinking, ‘We’ve got this game locked up, because Trail hadn’t seen this guy before.’ But they hadn’t seen our best guy either.”
The Trail All Stars will play in the Chataqua Days tournament in Chewelah July 13-15, all in preparation for the 2018 Major Little League Provincial Championships at Andy Bilesky Park in Trail July 21-28.