By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Four local youth got a chance to play against some of the best players their age as they competed in the Little League World Series this summer.
Grade 10 students Kalen Haney, Ethan Smith, Seth Gurr and Gabe Neufeld had been playing together for years.
“Really, we started out playing house league, then we got into playing Northcrest AA for that, and once we got older and we could try out for Lethbridge teams — which was Lethbridge Giants last year — then we started to get into Lethbridge baseball,” said Gurr.
“On the travel team too, we played for the junior dogs since we were about 11 and 12, then we went on from there into Lethbridge team.”
“Just the fun of it and compeitivenesss,” said Haney, on why they stuck with it.
This past year, the four played for the Lethbridge Junior Bulls baseball team, going on to compete in Nationals earlier this summer. Nationals was hosted in Lethbridge this year, and went Aug. 2-10.
They ended up taking a clean sweep of the competition, earning them first place.
“Usually, we expect teams from all around Canada that are in our league to have really good hitters pitching,” said Gurr.
“Every team, we pretty much mercied them, which wasn’t as fun, we could have had better competition. But it was still very fun to be there, and play at the Spitz stadium, stay in dorms with each other, and we built really good team chemistry.”
The Bulls ended up using the mercy rule against every team but Medicine Hat, which Gurr said “was our best competition”.
The Junior Bulls won all teams in the round-robin portion of the tournament, before moving on to the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals, where they placed first.
After Winning Nationals, the team went on to compete in the Junior League World Series in Taylor, Mich., from Aug. 13-20
“It was fun; fun competition, it was good. Played some good arms,” said Haney.
“It was amazing to see how good the talent is all around the world.”
The players also enjoyed hanging out with players from all around the world. The Australian team was particularly fun to hang out with.
“They are just fun kids, because they usually have cool different nicknames we can learn from them and they have places, stuff we can trade with each other place to place,” said Gurr.
“They also have — we think — really cool accents that they have. They’re just really cool kids to us.”
Unfortunately, the Bulls did not have to same clean sweep that they had at Nationals, finishing second last.
“We didn’t do that good there this year,” said Gurr. “It was good competition.”
Now that the summer baseball season has ended and they’re back in school, they’re planning on trying out for the American Legion and make a minors team, as well as try out for their school teams.
Haney is also attending the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball this year, and will play on the Jets team once the season starts up.