Little leaguers live, learn at Little League World Series

Lachlan Hunter reached back at the warning track and snagged the soaring ball in the tip of his glove as it neared the left-field wall.

Lachlan Hunter reached back at the warning track and snagged the soaring ball in the tip of his glove as it neared the left-field wall.

His teammates from Vancouver’s Little Mountain Mountaineers —representing Canada at the Little League World Series — cheered as though the 12-year-old just saved a no-hitter.

Hunter gave a mock bow, and together the teammates bounded off the field to high-fives and cheers.

It was the fourth inning of a game Canada eventually lost 23-0 to Taiwan.

After beating Panama 4-2 to open the LLWS in South Williamsport, Penn., on Saturday, the team of 11 and 12-year olds were simply outmatch by their Taiwanese competition on Monday.

Down by nearly two-dozen runs, the game was called by a mercy rule after the four innings.

But despite moments of frustration, the Canadian players and coaches continued a resilient show of smiles and cheers for most of the game.

Canada will face Panama again in an elimination game today.

In other games, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico beat Manati, Puerto Rico 4-2 and Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany beat Plymouth, Minn., 2-1.

Canada manager Pat Chaba said the boys were obviously disappointed with the loss, and they may have eased up a bit in the shock of being beaten so badly. Until today they were undefeated, with a 21-0 record.

“Nobody likes to lose, but certainly no kid can go to bed tonight thinking, ‘If only I’d made one play, we’d have won that game,” Chaba said. “You don’t feel that bad about a shellacking.”

The team has a tradition of stuffing stinky socks into frowning faces. It’s one of several quirky practices that keeps the team focused on fun and sportsmanship.

Taiwan jumped out to a 6-0 lead after the first inning, and refused to look back. The speedy team added another 17 runs over the next three innings.

Hsun-Hao Shih, a 200-pound 12-year-old, belted two home runs for Taiwan. Shao-Fei Huang, also 12, drove in six RBIs, with two doubles and a sacrifice fly.

Chen-Wei Chen, a tiny 79-pound speedster, earned four walks and taunted the Canadians with his base-stealing prowess throughout the two-hour match.

Meanwhile, the B.C. boys did everything they could to fight on.

The team went through five pitchers, each frustrated by the skilled precision of Taiwan’s bats and the constant threat of their explosive base runners. The Canadians were out-hit 15-1.

“They hit two-seams, they hit four-seams, they hit change-ups, curve balls, and at a certain point you just have to tip your hat to them,” said Chaba.

“It shows that we’re playing world class athletes.”

But that didn’t stop Canadian pitcher Kanta Ikeda from beaming when his left-fielder Hunter snagged that near-grand slam to get out of the top of the fourth inning.

The 12-year-old pumped his fist in awe.

And after TSN decided to cut from the Mountaineers’ final at-bats in favour of a NASCAR race, the boys made a vain attempt to avoid the shutout. They didn’t.

Game over, they shook the victors hands, and saluted a throng of Canadian fans cheering for them from the sidelines.

Disappointed, sure. But defeated?

“These are still 11 and 12-year-old kids and they have to regroup a bit. But there’s no tears on the bench,” Chaba said. “We managed to get everybody to smile and to cheer up a bit, and I’m sure we’re going to come back hard tomorrow.”