Comeback win sends Coquitlam to Little League national final

Coquitlam slugger Matthew Shanley hit a towering three-run homer into the trees beyond left field in the fourth inning to send his All-Stars little league team to a rematch with Quebec in Saturday’s Canadian championship final.

Coquitlam beat Ontario 8-5 in Friday’s semifinal at Ancaster, Ont. Earlier, Quebec defeated Alberta 8-7 in extra innings.

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Coquitlam lost to Quebec, 12-2, in round-robin play.

Trailing 4-3 to Ontario heading into their half of the fourth inning, Coquitlam’s Brady Dorwart led off with a walk, extending his knack for reaching base as he got aboard all four of his at-bats in the game. Nolan Loverin then smacked a ground-rule double that bounced off the warning track in centrefield and over the fence to advance Dorwart to third.

That was enough for Ontario’s starting pitcher, Carson Colvin, who was replaced on the mound by William Watson.

The first batter he faced was Shanley, who launched his third homer of the tournament into the swirling wind and his team into its first lead of the game, 6-4.

Ontario, represented by a team from Ottawa West, got one of those runs back in the top of the fifth inning. But Coquitlam was able to add two more insurance runs in their half of the frame. 

Again, it was Shanley who played a role, as he took a pitch to the helmet with the bases loaded to score Piero Leon-Carney who’d led off the inning with a double into the gap and had been advanced to third on a bunt single by Dorwart. After he ran to the open bag at second, Nolan Loverin walked to load the bases.

When Shanley reached first, he was removed from the game by the umpire to get checked out for a possible concussion. He returned to his field position at third base in the top of the sixth inning.

Dorwart eventually scored as well, on a passed ball, to make it 8-5.

While Coquitlam had beaten Ontario 15-3 in the round-robin portion of the tournament, the Ottawa West side built an early 3-1 lead by the top of the third inning of their semifinal.

Coquitlam battled back in the bottom of the third as Kainoah Brankovic capped three successive base hits to lead off the inning with a lined shot deep to right field that was just over the head of Ontario’s right fielder. His single and error scored Shanley and Timothy Piasentin, who'd both reached base on singles.

Ontario then reclaimed the lead with a run in its half of the fourth inning.

Shanley, who hit seven homeruns to lead Coquitlam to the provincial championship, told CBC Sports the team has done too much hard work through the season to let any game slip away. He said the prospect of playing Quebec doesn’t phase his teammates.

“If our team is playing good ball, we should have a chance,” he said.

The winner of Saturday’s championship game will represent Canada at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. A team from British Columbia has earned that opportunity in 13 of the last 14 years. But it’s been 35 years since one of those teams came from Coquitlam.

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