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Sunday, May. 19, 2019
Voyageur baseball squad hit the win column in post-season play
by Randy Pascal

Laurentian Voyageurs baseball coach Brodie Jeffery could point, only so long, to the increased competitiveness of his team in their inaugural season of OUA play this fall. His crew needed wins to justify their progress.

Thankfully, the OUA championship tournament playoff format does help to provide something of a carrot for all of the teams involved.

With the league breaking the 11 competing sides into three separate pools last weekend in Ajax, the Voyageurs (0-14) would find themselves playing a double round robin preliminary round with the Waterloo Warriors (2-14) and a Windsor Lancers team that had foregone participation in the regular season schedule, catapulted directly into the provincial playdowns mix.

The message from coach Jeffery was clear - his team had plenty to play for.

And that they did, finishing first in their pool with a sweep of the Lancers (7-3 and 11-5) and a split with the Warriors (1-0 loss and 9-2 win). That resume would advance the Laurentian reps directly into a semi-final encounter with the Laurier Hawks, the locals dispatched by a final count of 10-0.

Still, all in all, it was a very positive conclusion to a first season of OUA play that would see the Voyageurs suffer ten of their 14 regular season encounters by three runs or less.

"As the season went on, we continued to get better," said Jeffery. "Leading up to the tournament, we started to play really well. We started to see less of the big innings happening, we saw tighter scores, our offense started to heat up. I was waiting for that to happen and it happened at the right time."

More than anything else, it became a matter of his team believing that as well. "There was nothing that really changed except for the mentality that we were going to be warriors," said Jeffery. "The pitchers knew, going into this weekend, that they were going to have to fight through some sore arms."

"The guys played with some swagger, some intensity, some grittiness. It was just a different team."

Individually speaking, there was no lack of standout performances. Picking up a win on the mound in the opener against Windsor, Avery Chenier limited the Lancers to five hits and no walks over seven innings, striking out four and belting a home run for good measure.

With the team needing a win in their round robin finale against the Warriors, pitcher Tyler McKillop came through. "He came into the season as our ace, but he got hit around," said Jeffery. "This is his last year of eligibility, his only year with us. He struck out, I think, seven in seven innings against Waterloo in a really big game."

"And Kody Anton, all year, has been our firecracker at the top of the order. I think he led the tournament in hitting and on-base percentage." Giving his team two weeks of "R & R", Jeffery is anxious to begin the off-season workout regimen with his troops, adding some muscle mass in the winter months.

And, of course, there is that number one priority of simply adding more talent to the roster. "The biggest need is pitching, for sure, and a middle of the order guy to drive in some runs," said Jeffery. "This year, we were more of a station to station team, manufacturing runs."

That might be true, but in their first year of OUA involvement, the Voyageurs were able to manufacture enough runs to come out on the winning side of the ledger, even if it took until post-season play to do so.

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