To say the players on Canal Little League’s 10-and-under all-star team have had some success would be a drastic understatement.
The majority of the players on this year’s team also played on Canal’s 8- and 9-year-old all-star teams that won District 2 titles. In three years, this group of players has had just one loss, suffered when they were 8 years old.
Canal won the state tournament this year by outscoring its opponents 38-2 in three games, and with the win, advanced to the Eastern Region Tournament in Cranston, R.I.
“The success is a product of the hard work the kids and the coaching staff have put in six days a week through every all-star season, for the last three years,” manager Kristen Caldwell said. “These kids embrace the work that comes with baseball. The bond of the group is strong, and the confidence they have in each other makes them special. We are a team that is truly ‘12 strong.’”
Unlike the younger teams, teams at this age level have the opportunity to advance out of Delaware to compete in the Mid-Atlantic tournament of the Eastern Regional.
“I would say it’s business as usual in how we prepare,” Caldwell said before heading to Rhode Island. “We keep practices competitive with our pitchers throwing to our hitters. We try to keep practices fresh and fun, but also extremely focused for the duration. We know we will get every team’s best, so we prepare with that in mind. We prepare so that our depth is our strength.”
Canal used four pitchers during the state tournament, and Caldwell believes that competing at regionals will test their depth at that position. But overall, she was very pleased with the progress the team had made at the point when Team Canal became Team Delaware and prepared to represent the First State.
“I have seen all the players grow as they have embraced our reps and routines,” Caldwell said. “Pitchers throwing more strikes, hitters’ swings more consistent and fielders looking smooth.”
That improvement showed on the first day of regionals as Delaware took down Pennsylvania 5-3 on Saturday.
“It felt great,” Caldwell said after the win. “Our pitchers threw very well. Our defense was solid. We will hit better in this tournament, but it was good enough today.”
Delaware did hit better in its second game, cruising to a 12-6 win over New York on Monday.
“The key was just crushing the ball up and down the lineup,” Caldwell said, referring to her team’s 16 hits. “When we hit the ball like we did today, we are going to be tough to beat. Our pitchers all battled and our defense continues to be solid.”
Delaware had Tuesday off and after batting practice in the morning rested up for a trip to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play the Royals.
It was then back to work on Wednesday afternoon against the other undefeated team, New Jersey. In a back-and-forth affair, New Jersey rallied to score four runs in the bottom of the sixth to hand Delaware its first loss, 11-10.
“I thought both teams swung the bats today,” Caldwell said, referring to the combined 24 hits and 21 runs.
Despite the loss, Delaware (2-1) will face New Jersey (3-0) again in Friday’s Mid-Atlantic final. With one game remaining against Maryland (0-3) on Thursday, even if Delaware loses, they would still hold the head-to-head tie-breaker against the other two teams, Pennsylvania and New York, which are both 1-2 heading into their final games.
“Pitching should line up nicely [on Friday],” Caldwell pointed out.
The winner of Friday’s Mid-Atlantic final then faces the top team in the New England tournament the following day, and the winner of that game is the Eastern Regional champion. There is no further advancement at that point.
The coaches for Delaware are Matt Rice, John Lednum and Lane Collie. Players are Aiden Collie, Chase Lednum, Matthew Rice, Fenix Luloff, Will Caldwell, Logan Waynick, Jacob Trala, Brody Fleming, Dane Johnson, Julian Onley, Tristin Marley and Carter Schurman.