Brisbane North Baseball Little League team, drawn from the Redcliffe Padres, Narangba Demons and Pine Rivers Rapids baseball clubs, made history in June, booking a berth at the 2022 Little League Baseball World Series after defeating a team from Sydney.
They beat NSW team Hills 9-3 in the gold medal game at the Little League Division 1 Nationals to earn their international spot.
Brisbane North lost just one match during the series – ironically a 4-0 draw against Hills.
The achievement was even more remarkable because Brisbane North selectors had only 40 players from three clubs to choose from, whereas their rivals were drawn from hundreds of players.
About Brisbane North Baseball team
In August, Fletcher Adams, Archie Baert, Aaron Bell, Jacky Byrne, Mason Clem, Chase Crew, Alonso Zaire Griffin, Xavier Honsa, Logan Lokeni, Archer Petersen, Keita Tsujinaka, Tirrell Waiwai, Khyden Wilson and Tyler Wilson embarked on the trip of a lifetime, going up against 19 of the best teams in the world in the Little League World Series.
They were joined by head coach Keith Land from the Redcliffe Padres, Chris Clem from the Narangba Demons and Shane Wilson from the Pine Rivers Rapids.
The team of 11 and 12-year-olds spent more than 40 hours travelling to America for the Little League World Series, where they stole the hearts of thousands of Williamsport locals who turned out to see the grand parade held in celebration of the event.
They even made the front page of the local paper – the Williamsport Gazette – before facing Canada in their first game.
While Canada won the match 7-0, the Australians put on a feisty performance, with pitcher Alonso Zaire Griffin notching six strikeouts – the second highest for the game.
Griffin and fellow pitcher Logan Lokeni shared top honours for the highest number of first pitch strikes, with 10 apiece.
And five players racked up a hit during the game – Griffin, Xavier Honsa, Tirrell Waiwai, Jack Byrne and Mason Clem.
It was followed by 12-7 defeat by Italy in their second game, which put them out of competition, but Little League had told all the players not to worry if they didn’t win a game.
With two million players in 180 countries, all the competitors were the best 250 players in the world – and Brisbane North was the first team in Brisbane to earn a place in the competition.
It was the trip of a lifetime for the boys, their coaches and many family members who travelled to the US to support the team – and the journey was as much about what happened off the field as on.
Among their adventures was a trip organised by Chris Clem to Pittsburgh to watch a match between the Pirates and the Atlanta Braves.
Chris played World Series for the Cleveland Indians (now the Guardians) and the man who recruited him is now with the Braves and organised 25 free tickets.
Chris’s contact came through again when the Aussies found themselves on a bus to the game with the team from Japan, who were planning to buy tickets at the stadium.
It was an act of generosity that forged firm friendships and led to the teams putting on an exhibition match at a suburban Little League ground.
Locals turned out to watch the match and organised a barbecue for both teams.
They also played a wiffleball game with young patients with disabilities at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre, joined by World Series Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson.
Keith said it was a highlight of their trip away, with one player holding the hand of a little girl who’d had an aneurism and came out of surgery with a serious disability throughout the event – and even feeding her lunch - reducing her parents to tears of joy.
Moreton Bay Regional Council officially acknowledged Brisbane North’s achievements in a special ceremony and afternoon tea at the Padres’ home ground at Kippa-Ring where players were given certificates and Moreton Bay caps, as well as a commemorative plaque for each club, by Mayor Peter Flannery, Cr Sandra Ruck (Div 5), Cr Mick Gillam (Div 8) and Cr Yvonne Barlow (Div 7).
Keith says the team’s international success has been good for local baseball too, with all three clubs involved increasing enrolments in the age group by about 30-40 percent.
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