U13 Chuckers are BC's best

Richmond captures AAA baseball title in Victoria to earn trip to San Diego

Last weekend’s welcomed rain showers were about the only thing that slowed down the Richmond Chuckers.
They proved to be the class of B.C. Minor Baseball’s U13 Provincial AAA Championships — capturing the 10-team event with authority. It was also the first provincial championship for a Richmond team at the top AAA level in 11 years.
The Chuckers crushed Vancouver Minor 9-1 in Sunday’s semi-final, then blanked Cloverdale 5-0 in a championship game that featured a two hour rain delay in the sixth inning. It marked the second time in the tournament Richmond had to wait for Mother Nature’s cooperation to complete a game.
The locals shouldn’t have to worry about precipitation again after earning the right to represent B.C. at an upcoming tournament in San Diego.
“All along we felt we had a we had a really good team,” said head coach Scott Lunny. We lost a tough one in the semi-finals last year so this felt pretty good for the boys.
“To allow only one run in two (playoff) games on Sunday is impressive. Pitching and defence were definitely our strong suits which is ironic because we are probably known more for our offence.”
The Chuckers qualified for provincials by compiling a 7-3 record in AAA summer league playdowns. The boys brought plenty of momentum to the Island by also capturing a pair of tournaments earlier this month — first in Kamloops, then at the Valley of Champions two weeks ago in Kelowna.
Still, there were the usual Lower Mainland heavyweights to deal with as Abbotsford, Vancouver Minor and Coquitlam-Moody were considered Richmond’s greatest threats.
The Chuckers actually opened the championships with a 4-1 loss to Abbotsford in round-robin play. Needing to run the table to secure one of the two semi-final berths up for grabs, the locals did just that, producing wins over Burnaby (9-2), Victoria Black (4-3) and Kamloops (17-7).
That left three teams atop the group with 3-1 records. The Chuckers were given the nod for first place thanks to surrendering the least amount of runs.
It set the stage for a dominating two-way performance in the semi-final by Justin Thorsteinson. The southpaw allowed just two hits, struck out 11 and surrendered no walks before reaching the maximum pitch count of 85 in the seventh. He also helped his own cause by belting a pair of home runs and recording five RBIs.
The Chuckers struck for a pair of runs in the first and broke the game wide open in the fifth by scoring five times.
The championship game featured more superb pitching against an upstart Cloverdale team that squeaked into provincials with a 2-8-1 record and promptly rolled to five straight wins.
This time it was Jake Finklestein’s time to shine on the mound as he ended Cloverdale’s Cinderella story with five shutout innings of two-hit ball.
The pitch count maximum coincided with the rain delay, leaving it for Joey Houston to close out for the second straight game. He fanned five of the six batters he faced over the final two innings.
The Chuckers roster also features Bradley Araki-Young, Cyrus Chen, Kyle Hepburn, Nathan Hikida, Shintaro Kawai, Kyle Matsunuma, Jonathan McGill and Jordan Si.
Lunny’s coaching staff includes Rob Houston, Jordan Thorsteinson and Steve Hepburn.
Since the Chuckers will be entering the San Diego tournament as Team B.C., they are required to add players to their roster. Lunny said the pick-ups will come from Abbotsford (2), Vancouver, Burnaby and Ladner.
The provincial championship is a reflection of the hard work Richmond City Baseball has poured into the critical Pee Wee age group that provides a talent pipeline for the older Bantam and Midget programs.
Thanks to fall and winter training to enhance player development, the association had 22 players playing on rep AA/AAA teams this past season. Lunny has been overseeing the Pee Wee level for three years even though his sons have already come through the age group. His efforts were recognized by being named B.C. Baseball’s U13 Coach-of-theYear.
“The idea is to at least keep the boys interested in ball year round,” explained Lunny. “We definitely don’t want it to be a huge commitment and we encourage our kids to do other (sports) as well.”
Last weekend’s result speaks volumes of the program’s success.

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