The Sudbury 11U Shamrocks managed to squeeze all of their drama from the 2021 Baseball Ontario Select provincial championships into just a single game ... but what a game it was.
A back and forth affair with the Creemore Braves would finally be decided in the bottom of the eighth inning when a two-out single off the bat of Matteo Spadafora allowed Seamus Murphy to scamper to the plate, the home side celebrating a 13-12 triumph.
Considering that both teams had posted unblemished 3-0 marks in preliminary round play – the Shamrocks outscoring opponents 40-12 while Creemore eked out wins of 6-5, 5-3 and 8-5 – this end of the line challenge for the Sudbury crew was likely somewhat welcomed, if perhaps a bit nerve-wracking.
“We have played them a lot this year and that was the best that they ever played,” acknowledged Liam Mahoney, a 3B/OF with the Shamrocks who laced a triple into right field as the contest see-sawed back and forth in the middle innings.
“The whole game, we were all nervous, especially when we were down runs. We somehow managed to get a hit in extra innings to score the last run and it was crazy.”
It was indeed.
With Mahoney, Dacey Dupuis and Adrien Cecchetto all coming through with key hits in the middle innings, Sudbury would secure an 11-8 lead with just one inning to play. But Creemore had managed to push Murphy, the Shamrocks starting pitcher, out of the game, and with the middle of their lineup at the plate, the Braves rallied to score four times.
More two-out drama for the locals as a drive to left field by Bradley Eady plated Andrew Roney, deadlocking the contest at 12-12. Having faced a few batters in the seventh in relief of Spadafora, Roney was at his very best one inning later, completing a three up/three down sequence on the mound that paved the way for the surge of excitement to come.
“We would take some deep breaths and we would focus, stop thinking about what happens if we win or if we lose and just focus on the game, what’s happening right at that moment,” noted Mahoney, outlining the process of trying to stay calm.
Of course, that’s much easier said than done.
The 11 year old grade six student at RL Beattie Public School was anything but calm and collected as he blazed his way across the first base bag after his long poke to the outfield.
“I’m pretty lucky that he didn’t catch it,” Mahoney suggested. “Once it went by him, I felt that I was going super fast, so as soon as I got past first, I knew that I was going for third.”
An underager with the team this year, Adrien Cecchetto shared the anxiety of his older teammates. “I was just trying to keep it positive, trying to get some hits, trying to play some defense,” he said. “It was just so intense in the last few innings.”
“And with the walk off, when the last run was scored, I was like “Oh My God” when the guy missed it. Seamus came home and the throw was off-line – I just knew that we were going to win.”
As for the young man at the plate, Spadafora was simply thankful to get a pitch that he could handle. “They were coming in a bit high, but then it came lower and I thought I could get to it,” said the grade six student at Holy Cross Catholic School. “I thought the guy caught it, but once I saw that he missed it, I thought Seamus could make it.”
The remainder of the Shamrocks roster features Ty Belanger, Ryan Thompson, Jacob Roy, Owynn Vaillancourt and Tayden Smith, as well as coaches Richard Spadafora, James Eady, Adam Cecchetto, Craig Thompson and Joey Dupuis.******************************************************************************
The Sudbury 16U Voyageurs may not have gone to extra innings or lifted the banner when all was said and done, but that did not stop head coach Shawn Paquette from speaking glowingly of the wrap-up to the 2021 PBLO (Premier Baseball League of Ontario) season for his young crew.
Closing out their schedule with a playoff tournament on the outskirts of Windsor, the Voyageurs dropped a 10-7 decision to the Ontario Yankees on the Friday night and were edged 9-7 by the eventual champion Ottawa Nepean Canadians, but doubled the Tecumseh Thunder 6-3 and closed things off with a 22-14 drubbing of the Yankees.
“We finished off on a pretty high note,” said Paquette. “We really came together as a team. Friday night was a little off with the errors, but after that, we finished Saturday and Sunday really strong.”
“It’s all communication - just having the boys together at the hotel, learning how to talk to each other,” Paquette added. “Spending that time together just made the biggest difference on the field.”
On the mound, the weekend highlight was clearly the complete game win that was posted by Ryan Lacasse, going seven innings, allowing eight hits while both walking and striking out the same number of batters – five.
Offensively, the locals were led by the usual suspects: Ryan Lacasse (seven hits, five runs), Ethan Morris (seven hits, four runs), Justin Lancup (five hits, four runs), Karsen Chartier (six hits, three runs) and Liam McNiven (four hits, four runs), with Morris showing the way with six RBIs.