NEWS
08/06/2011 05:55 EDT | Updated 10/06/2011 05:12 EDT

Pitching strategy questioned as Ontario opens Little League opener

NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. - Only time will tell if it was the right strategy.

Ontario rode the strong pitching of Christian Pandoff to a 10-4 win over the Prairies in Saturday's opening game of the Canadian Little League Championships.

Pandoff threw 66 pitches and left the game in the third inning with the High Park Little League team from Toronto leading 7-3 against the Rocky Mountain All-Stars Red Sox from Calgary.

Under Little League rules, Pandoff will need four days rest before being allowed to pitch again.

"We planned to let him go," said Tom Bazkur, one of the High Park coaches. "He's one of our better pitchers.

"He will be ready for the semifinal and the final if we need him. We have a lot of pitchers."

But the strategy left Calgary manager Jason Pate scratching his head.

Pate used seven pitchers in the match, keeping all but one to under 20 pitches so they can play again Sunday. Toronto used only one pitcher other than Pandoff.

"You have a game every day," said Pate. "I don't know what his (Toronto manager Chuck Boyes) reasoning was.

"Maybe he thinks he has a lot of arms. I have a lot of arms as well. I looked at the next two games and wanted to have all my pitchers."

One bright spot for Calgary was Joe Woods pounding the first home run of the tournament in the sixth and final inning of the loss.

The bleachers were full at the Chris Zuehlke Memorial Field as the six-team tournament began under bright, blue skies and a baking sun.

The tournament winner will represent Canada at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.

The favourite to win the championship is the team from Langley, B.C. Just to reach the tournament, Langley defeated defending Canadian champion Little Mountain in the B.C. provincial semifinals. They then beat 2009 champions Hastings in the final.

Also battling for the championship are teams from Sydney, N.S., Valleyfield, Que., and the host Mount Seymour from North Vancouver.

In Little League, a player who throws over 20 pitches must rest one day. Someone who throws over 35 pitches must take two days off, 50 pitches means three days off and over 65 results in four days rest.

Pandoff seemed to contradict his coach when asked about the number of pitches he threw.

"I usually keep my pitch count pretty low," he said. "I was hoping to be under 65.

"I was missing some corners and I got a lot of walks today. I only allowed a couple of hits but it wasn't what I was looking for."

Bazkur said High Park wanted to start strong.

"We have eight to nine pitchers," he said. "We wanted to go with our best in the first game."

Managing your pitchers is one of the challenges in Little League, especially in a tournament when a lot of games are played over a short time.

The Prairies plays Quebec Sunday while Ontario faces the host Mount Seymour.

Pate said each manager uses his own approach to games.

"Maybe (they) thought we're a tough team (so) let's put our tough pitcher in there,'' said Pate.

"We looked at it a little bit differently. We looked at our schedule a little bit."

Pate said falling behind 6-0 early also forced him to rotate his pitchers.

"I didn't have anybody that was shutting anybody down as well I would have liked too," he said.

The High Park Little League is made up of six clubs. The group playing at the Canadian championship is an all-star team.

Teams from High Park have won three Canadian championships, the last in 2000.

Bazkur said Pandoff plays on the last-place team in the league.

"He's a very smart kid,'' Bazkur said. "He doesn't get rattled easily.

"We were confident in using him.''

Pandoff has ties to the West Coast. He was born in Vancouver, before his parents moved to Toronto when he was three.

His older brother Jordan was a left-fielder for the University of British Columbia Thunderbrids.

Teams from B.C. have won the Canadian title the last six years and 20 times since 1965. In that same span Atlantic Canada has worn the crown five times.

Quebec and Ontario have been vying for the Canadian title since 1958. Quebec teams have been Canadian champion 13 times and Ontario 12.