Lumberjacks in the race to qualify for Little League World Series

·2 min read

Lethbridge Little League AAA Lumberjacks are off to Ottawa for the Canadian Nationals after winning the Alberta Intermediate League in a best of three against Medicine Hat. The team won two of the three games, winning their final game 9 – 3, to qualify to compete in the Nationals amongst five other teams across Canada.

The winner of the Nationals will go to the Little League World Series in Livermore, Calif. August 1 – 8.

The Lumberjacks play against Team Saskatchewan, Thursday morning, having already sized up the competition in a couple of exhibition matches earlier this year where they proved their might winning both games.

Head coach Denny Puszkar said the team’s prospects look promising but the team will play smart and not take previous wins as a guarantee.

“We know Team Quebec will be really strong. We played them here last year, when they did a tour across Western Canada. I know most of them are back and they’ll be really strong […] anybody can win in a tournament, right? I like our boys, they stay pretty level, they don’t get too up or too down. So, you never know.”

The 13-year-old team of 12 have come together and work well as a group, with Puszkar noting there isn’t one superstar but instead a collective, each game highlighting a player’s skills and abilities.

“They’ve come together really well as a group. It seems like every game we get somebody else contributing.”

With supportive fans and parents, the team has had the aid of community sponsors like Cedar Ridge Quality Homes and Chapman Farms to help contribute to the team’s travel expenses as they head to Ottawa.

Tournaments like Nationals rely on fundraising in the community to help with costs so kids can focus on the game and not worry about getting to the destination.

As for the players, Grady Johnson who plays catcher and third base said the tournament may be a little nerve racking but it’ll be a big opportunity to see what new challenges arise.

“I’m hoping I learn a lot of things. Learning how the other teams work and like, how good they are outside of Alberta. And just have fun.”

Other players like Harvey O’Brien, who plays outfield, is hopeful of the prospects with the team’s first match-up.

“I feel super confident. I feel like we have a good shot. Especially since we’re playing a team that we haven’t lost to, first game.”

With plenty of practice the team was formed back in June with two to three practices a week and playing games on the weekend.

The team will look to dominate the competition at Nationals and qualify to go to California where they can hopefully represent Canada.

Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald

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