One familiar program and one newcomer are the latest teams to qualify for the 2011 Senior League World Series that begins Sunday at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
The Notre Dame de Grace Little League from Montreal, Quebec, won the Canadian championship Wednesday evening, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to edge Windsor West, Ontario, 4-3 at Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec.
The victory capped off an undefeated run to the national championship for the Montreal team, which went 5-0 in pool play before defeating British Columbia 5-1 in the semifinals.
The Montreal team, the first from Quebec to earn a trip to the Senior League World Series since it was moved to Bangor in 2002, will open pool play in this year’s SLWS at noon Sunday against Maine District 3 champion Brewer.
Meanwhile, Hilo, Hawaii, which won the 2003 SLWS and reached the semifinals in 2007, used a 14-hit attack to defeat Manhattan Beach, Calif., 9-1 in the U.S. West championship game played Tuesday evening at Ontario, Calif.
That win avenged a 4-3 loss to the Southern California representative in last year’s U.S. West final. Manhattan Beach went on to go undefeated through pool play at the 2010 SLWS before being upended by Maine District 3 champion Bangor in the semifinals.
Hilo went undefeated in three pool-play games at this year’s U.S. West tourney, then defeated the host Chino (Calif.) National Little League 15-5 in Monday’s semifinals.
Hilo will open pool play in the SLWS against Palm Bay, Fla., at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, just after the opening game of the seven-day SLWS at noon that matches Brewer against the Canadian champion.
The U.S. Central and U.S. Southwest were scheduled to crown their SLWS qualifiers Wednesday evening, while the U.S. East representative will be determined Thursday when Talbot City, Md., faces Wyoming, Pa., in the championship round.
Big summer for Hilo’s Wongs
It has been an eventful few months for Hilo, Hawaii, manager Kaha Wong.
This week he guided the Big Islanders to its first trip to the Senior League World Series since 2007 by winning the U.S. West regional tournament at Ontario, Calif.
Less than two months ago he was a proud father as his son Kolten was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals as the 22nd pick in the first round of the amateur baseball draft.
Kolten Wong starred for Hilo as a catcher and second baseman during the 2007 SLWS, going 7 of 13 at the plate with seven runs scored, six RBIs, two home runs and two doubles in leading his team to the semifinals.
Wong subsequently was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 16th round after graduating from high school, but opted to attend the University of Hawaii. The lefthanded-hitting second baseman posted a career .358 batting average while being named an ABCA first-team All-American, Baseball America third-team All-American and a three-time All-Western Athletic Conference first-team honoree.
Kolten Wong currently is playing for the Class A Quad City (Iowa) River Bandits, where he is batting .327 with four home runs and 19 RBIs.
Kaha Wong, a former minor leaguer himself in 1989 and 1990, has another son, Kean, on this year’s Hilo Senior League team.
Partners in flight
Two of the teams coming to Bangor from far different corners of the country will get the chance to get to know each other well in advance of their meeting on the diamond Sunday afternoon.
U.S. Southeast champion Palm Bay, Fla., and U.S. West qualifier Hilo, Hawaii, will share a flight Friday from Atlanta to Portland before busing up to Bangor, according to SLWS tournament director Mike Brooker. The Hawaiian contingent will fly from Los Angeles to Atlanta while the Palm Bay team will fly from Orlando, Fla., to Atlanta before boarding the same plane to make their way up the East Coast.
“They’ll be quite familiar with each other when they get here,” said Brooker.
The two teams will become even more familiar with each other once the tournament begins Sunday afternoon, as Palm Bay and Hilo will square off in the second game of pool play at 2:30 p.m., just after Maine District 3 champion Brewer and the Canadian qualifier meet at noon.
Last qualifier, first to arrive
The 10th and final team to earn its way to this year’s Senior League World Series will be the first of the visiting parties to arrive in Bangor.
The U.S. East champion, set to be crowned either Thursday morning or Thursday afternoon, is scheduled to fly into Bangor International Airport at 3:17 p.m. Friday, followed by the arrival of the Canadian champion Notre Dame de Grace Little League of Montreal, Quebec, by bus at approximately 4 p.m.
“We’ll have teams coming in every hour or two the rest of the night,” said Brooker, with the Palm Bay, Fla., and Hilo, Hawaii, the last teams scheduled to arrive in advance of Saturday night’s opening ceremony.