With a busy few months behind them, the youngsters who comprised the Sudbury U9 Jr Voyageurs will exit the baseball season having enjoyed their fill of competition.
More importantly, they will do so blessed with the ability to look back on a clear pathway of progress that was demonstrated from start to finish, showcasing the best of their improvement in a four game season ending series in Sault Ste Marie a few weeks back.
Not only did the Sudbury crew capture three of the four outings during this latest visit to the Lock City - the Voyageurs went from losing three of four to earning a split and finally winning the series over the course of the summer - but their only loss came by just a single run, in the bottom of the seventh, no less.
And that was not until the fourth and final game. By that point, the locals had clearly begun to flex, showing well both at the plate and in the field.
Though the squad would take game one by a final count of 9-5, it was not without drama. Sudbury would hold a 4-0 lead after five innings, only to find themselves down by a run after a Soo Black Sox rally in the bottom of the sixth.
"After being in control of the game for the first five and a half innings, the kids showed a great deal of character, answering the Soo by scoring five of their own in the top of the seventh," noted Jr Voyageurs' head coach Carter McDavid.
Limiting the homeside to just ten runs in two games at this age level is exceptional, but that was exactly what the nickel city lads and lass accomplished, getting the better of the Soo crew by a final score of 12-5 in game two.
Noting that all of his players chipped in defensively, McDavid was especially pleased with the efforts of Dakota Del Papa ("he made numerous impressive defensive plays, regardless of where he played") as well as Trent Morris ("he contributed making two key grabs in the outfield to end Sault Ste Marie threats with the game still within reach").
A game three triumph of 21-8 would produce a final score that is a bit misleading, as the Sudbury bats plated nine runs in the final two innings alone. Still, the offense was definitely firing on all cylinders as Blake Rothwell belted his second home run of the season, all while reaching base on 15 of the 16 occasions that he stepped to the plate.
And once again, defensive gems abounded, with Cole Gauthier making three great catches on his own. "Another key play came in the fifth, with the game still quite close, as Evan Fex picked up a ball in the outfield, got it in quickly, with Brady Caesar calling for the at home plate, finishing off a perfect relay for the out," said McDavid.
Despite taking an 11-8 lead into the bottom of the seventh in game four Sunday afternoon, the U9s came up just short of the sweep, trimmed 12-11 by the Black Sox. Rory McDavid helped pace the offense on day two, going 8/8 and scoring four times while Landon Wilson helped out with a couple of big stops defensively.
"The kids had a few opportunities to put the game out of reach before the Soo came back but just fell on the wrong side of some bounces," said coach McDavid, who could not have asked for a much better grand finale for his young team.
"As the weekend went on, you could see their confidence growing with each and every game," he added. "Everyone contributed to the team success in the Sault."
The remainder of the Sudbury roster features Cohen Rainville, Grace Perron, Ryan Pineau, Carter Dunn and Sedric Savignac, while Allan McDavid, Tyler Dunn and Cary Del Papa all lent a hand to the coaching duties, with Angele Savignac serving as team manager.