If there were any questions as to whether the Moose Jaw All Stars are serious contenders at the Canadian Little League Regional championship, they were answered and then some on Monday afternoon.
After their 5-0 win over Ontario’s Ancaster Diamondbacks at Rose Diamond in Calgary, the All Stars aren’t only in contention, they’re undoubtedly one of the favourites to reach the championship final in a few days’ time.
Moose Jaw pitchers held Ontario to a single hit and used some timely offence of their own to take an early lead before going on to their comfortable victory, improving 3-1 at the event. Most importantly, the win guarantees the All Stars at least a top-four finish and a spot in the playoff round with two round-robin games remaining
The All Stars got on the board quickly, and it should come as no surprise at this point that Neal Kohl played a part in it.
After Luke Pratte hit a single to lead off the contest, Kohl came to the plate two batters later and launched a towering fly ball into left field. The Ontario fielder could not track the ball down in the swirling wind at Rose Diamond, and it would drop in for a double that would bring Pratte home from first.
As it turns out, that would be all the offence they’d need, because quite simply, Jackson Boyle and Dillon Flanagan were dealing in the mound.
Boyle started the contest and allowed a single hit in two innings of work before Flanagan took over and turned in the top pitching performance for Moose Jaw so far -- no runs, no hits, five strikeouts and no walks over four innings.
Of course, insurance runs are always nice, and in the third inning, it was Luke Turner’s turn to come up with another big hit for his club.
After Kohl launched another sky-high fly that eluded a fielder, Turner fouled off the first pitch he saw before getting all of the next Ancaster offering, sending it over the centrefield wall for Moose Jaw’s third home run of the tournament.
The All Stars tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth when Pratte and Nigel Legare hit back-to-back doubles, bringing home Pratte with Moose Jaw’s fourth run. Two batters later, a Turner sacrifice would score Legare and make it a 5-0 game.
Pratte finished the game 2-for-2 with two runs, while Turner had three RBIs on the day.
The Prairie representatives are back in action on Tuesday at 12 p.m. when they take on the hosts from Rocky Mountain Little League (2-2) before closing out their round robin against Quebec’s Mirabel Diamond Academy (1-2) at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
After that, it’s off to the semifinal on Thursday, with a win there putting Moose Jaw in the championship game on Friday afternoon.
The tournament champion advances to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. beginning Aug. 17.
You can catch all the action, including live broadcasts, on www.cbc.ca.