WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The 2019 Little League World Series is set to begin at legendary Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, August 15. But six years ago, one member of the Elmira College baseball team found himself center stage at one of the world's premier amateur sporting events with an entire nation on his back.
Rising sophomore Angus Adams '22, then a lanky 5-foot-11-inch, 145-pound 13-year-old with braces, was one of the brightest stars on the Little League team from Nepean, a suburb of Ottawa. On August 12, 2013, Adams' East Nepean Eagles upset the favorites from British Columbia in front of 13,000 people for the Major Canadian Championship and the right to represent Canada in Williamsport. He was the starting pitcher in the title game and guided the East Nepean Eagles to a 5-1 victory over the White Rock All-Stars.
"I remember our coach bringing us in at the end of round-robin and really explaining that we had put ourselves in a great position to win the tournament," Adams said. "At that moment I started to really think (qualifying for the Little League World Series) could happen."
The White Rock club had won 27 consecutive games, including a 9-2 triumph over the Eagles earlier in the round-robin tournament, before succumbing to Adams' right arm in the championship. Journalist Scott Brown of the Vancouver Sun chronicled B.C.'s heart-breaking defeat to the Eagles, noting "the big arm of pitcher Angus Adams…delivered a masterful performance on the Nepean mound, allowing one run on two hits while striking out nine." The only thing that prevented Adams from completing the six-inning game on the bump was Little League's 85-pitch limit.
"My fondest memory was once we had won the national championship and we were done celebrating, my dad, who coordinated hotels, visas and all the travel stuff, screamed 'Nobody leave!' because there was so much paperwork to be done before we left at 5:00 a.m. the next day," Adams reminisced. "The parents sent the kids back to the hotel in taxis while they stayed and did paperwork. And for the one or two hours after that game, our team went nuts."
It was an emotional loss for White Rock's head coach, Jeff Crossley, and his son, Jared, the team's second baseman. It was a reunion of sorts when Adams arrived for his freshman year at EC. Approximately a week after classes began, Jared's older brother – Elmira outfielder Jansen Crossley '20 – made the connection and shared a few laughs with his new teammate.
"(Jansen) introduced me to his dad when we were in North Carolina for the first time, and we laughed over the whole thing," Adams said. "It proved to be valuable in the end because Jansen was definitely one of the guys who helped me out throughout the school year and the season, and kind of showed me the way to do things or picked me up after a bad outing."
During the upcoming 2019-20 school year, Crossley will share a dorm room with the pitcher that ended his home province's eight-year run of Little League World Series appearances.
"When we ran up against Angus Adams in the Little League Canadian Championships, we were the heavy favorite," Jeff Crossley recalled. "We faced aces at every stage and had the offensive lineup that could always grind away and get to them for enough runs to win.
"But in that championship game, Angus was awesome, dominant, and in control right from the start. A big, hard-throwing righty, painting the black from 46 feet."
It marked the first time since 2004 that the East Nepean Eagles advanced to Williamsport, the storied city in Northeastern Pennsylvania that has hosted the Little League World Series since its inception in 1947. And it was there Adams gained fame for a remarkable memory – he could name nearly every Major Leaguer on all 30 rosters – and for citing former Boston Red Sox ace Clay Buchholz as his favorite MLB pitcher – Buchholz's sister, Ashleigh, would later reach out to the eighth-grader via Twitter after seeing the clip on ESPN.
"Later that week my coach gave me his phone, and it was Clay at Fenway before starting one of his games," Adams said. "He just said thanks again and that he hoped he was going to pitch as well as me that night. About a month later, he sent me a signed ball and one of his jerseys with his signature and the date of his no-hitter. Definitely one of the coolest baseball experiences of my life."
Also seen on ESPN was Adams' 275-foot home run over the wall in center field against Chinese Taipei in the opening round of the international pool. When Team Canada squared off against the Czech Republic in their second contest, the broadcast crew highlighted the power at the plate displayed by Adams and teammate Jack Walsh. Entering the bout with the representatives from Europe, the Canadian duo had combined for 14 home runs since the beginning of regional play.
Right on cue, the kid nicknamed "Big Man" blasted a fastball on the outside corner over the trees that compromise the batter's eye at Volunteer Stadium, the secondary field at the Little League complex in Williamsport. Simply put by ESPN and San Francisco Giants broadcaster Dave Flemming after the round-tripper: "He can hit." Color commentator and former Milwaukee Brewer Kyle Peterson followed up by saying Adams is a "big boy with a sweet swing from the right-handed side," as his teammates mobbed him at home plate.
"It was cool being able to hit those two home runs just because that's all any kid has dreamed of," said Adams, who admitted he didn't hit as well as he wanted to in the Canadian national tournament prior to Williamsport.
After belting the homer in the first inning, the Czech Republic chose to intentionally walk Adams in the third, loading the bases with one out. Adams came around and scored what proved to be the deciding run by stealing home. Although he was initially ruled out, a successful challenge by Canadian Head Coach Mark Keeping overturned the call, showing that Adams slid underneath the catcher's tag. Team Canada held on to win 4-3.
In a second elimination game, the team from Panama eliminated Adams and his teammates from the tournament. He toed the rubber to start the matchup, striking out the first batter he faced as part of a 1-2-3 inning. Despite the loss, the East Nepean Eagles returned north of the border with plenty of stories to share with their friends back home.
"It was definitely the experience of a lifetime," Adams said. "From the moment you get to the complex to the moment you leave, they treat you like royalty. There was never really any pressure because Little League does a pretty good job of conveying the idea that all the teams that make it to the LLWS have all kind of won in their own way. Getting to represent Canada was extremely cool and a memory I'm sure I'll never forget."
In the years since, Adams has dropped the braces, filled out his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame, and has grown a grizzly beard. Prep Baseball Report named him one of the top 40 players in Ontario's Class of 2018, before he committed to Elmira last spring. In his debut season with the Purple and Gold, the Ottawan made 10 appearances with five starts, striking out 17 while recording one save. He was crowned the Empire 8 Conference's Rookie of the Week following 4.0 shutout innings with five strikeouts against nationally-ranked Johns Hopkins University in early March. Adams also logged a three-hit game with two runs and one RBI in the season finale, a 10-4 win over Utica on May 5.
"Angus will continue to fill a two-way role going into his second season," said Elmira Head Coach Corey Paluga. "He had several positive outings on the mound, and I think his role will be very flexible, whether he's a starter or a reliever for us. And he showed towards the end of his freshman season that he was going to be a versatile outfielder as well."
Like Adams, several other members of the 2013 East Nepean Eagles title team have grown up to be successful ballplayers. Walsh, the second-half of Team Canada's hard-hitting tandem, attends St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and plays in the Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association. According to Adams, Ken Nguyen – the winning pitcher from the victory against the Czech Republic – has received an offer from the University of Cincinnati and Caden Griffin has committed to the University of Missouri.
"I'm buddies with a lot of those guys now, but whenever we reconnect or touch base, I'm not known as 'Angus the dude who pitched in the Little League World Series,' I'm just Angus," he said. "Regardless of how long we go without talking, though, whenever we reconnect, it's always like no time has been lost."