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Aggressive at-bats just part of the Voyageurs success
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Two of the three Sudbury Voyageurs teams enjoyed very productive weekends in PBLO (Premier Baseball League of Ontario) play over the long weekend.

As for the other, they will likely wipe the slate clean and start fresh in June.

Coming off a four game sweep of the Ontario Yankees at home on May 14th/15th, the 18U Voyageurs were able to squeeze in half of their quartet of games scheduled for this past weekend as adverse weather created havoc right across the province.

The two outings that were played extended the Sudbury winning streak to six games and improved their overall record to 8-3, defeating the Ottawa Nepean Canadians 6-1 and following up with a 9-2 triumph over the Yankees.

For the second straight series, pitching was at the forefront for Sudbury as Scott Rienguette tossed his second consecutive complete game, allowing four hits, walking two and striking out nine in the victory over Ottawa. Ironically, he would throw exactly one pitch less than he had one week earlier in a 9-0 shutout of the Yanks (88 vs 89).

Braedan Pakkala did his utmost to keep the standard high with an equally impressive stat line – 6 IP – 3 hits – 14 Ks – 4 walks – two runs against, though neither were earned. Small wonder that the U18 Voyageurs’ staff, which also features top of the rotation starter Yannick Loiselle and a host of others was very much part of the conversation one week earlier at home.

“I just feel super confident playing third base behind Scooter (Rienguette),” said Jacob Lariviere, who delivered back to back two out RBI singles allowing the home side to pull away from the Ajax-based Yankees in the opener. “It feels nice having pitchers that can really hum it in there and do the job for us.”

Conversely, the run support that Lariviere and his co-horts are supplying also helps ease the pressure on those taking the mound. “I noticed their pitcher was throwing a lot of outside sliders,” said the 18 year old senior at St Charles College. “I definitely went into the box looking for that pitch and went on the first pitch and hit it the other way.”

“If the pitcher has a lot of confidence in his fastball, then I’m looking for that early. If it’s a guy who likes his curve ball, I might take a pitch or two and see if he can throw it for a strike.”

This kind of discussion is music to the ears of coach Steve Donahue. A native and life-long resident of Newfoundland, the 20 year baseball mentor befriended lead Voyageurs organizer Jean-Gilles Larocque at a Baseball Canada course in Florida almost a decade ago (turns out that Larocque lives about three minutes away from Donahue’s sister who moved to Ontario).

The Maritimer has accompanied Voyageurs teams on trips to the US, mid-summer, and this year agreed to come aboard and guide the eldest of the teams through what will be one final summer of youth baseball for many of them.

“I just want to bring a different opinion, a different set of eyes, basically,” said Donahue. “These kids have done some great things with great coaches, so it’s basically just a matter of giving them another way of looking at things, another way of explaining things.”

“I’m super excited to be here.”

The U18 Voyageurs are home again this coming weekend, welcoming the London Badgers to Sudbury for a four game series that kicks off Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

The Sudbury U14 Voyageurs have looked equally as impressive out of the gate. Taking three of four from the visiting Midwestern Ontario Bearcats, a team largely rostered with players from the Kitchener-Waterloo region, the locals bumped their season mark up to 8-3-1, leading the league in these early stages of the summer.

While starter Max Arnold was solid in taking to the mound on his birthday, allowing two runs in four innings of work, North Bay native Ryan Spencer certainly helped stir the offense, going 4/4 and scoring half of the Sudbury runs in a game one 6-4 win. Like Lariviere, the grade nine student at West Ferris Secondary School is of the belief that an aggressive approach in the batter's box will pay off.

“My mentality at the plate is to go up there and if I see a pitch that I like, swing at it and hit the ball,” said Spencer. “I’m really watching the ball and looking for the spin. If it’s a curve ball, it will spin differently than if it’s a fastball – and I like fastballs a lot more than curve balls.”

As for the move to the Voyageurs program some four years ago, Spencer is more than happy things worked out as they did. “The North Bay program that I played for kind of fell apart as I got older,” he noted. “I was looking for a different team and originally tried out for Barrie, but then J-G (Larocque) told my dad that he had a program here, so I joined.”

“These guys have been my main friends throughout the Covid years which have been difficult.”

The U14 Voyageurs would go on to take game two (11-8), with the Bearcats grabbing the Sunday morning affair by a score of 6-4 and the Voyageurs closing things off with a four-run bottom of the seventh inning rally to secure a 5-4 win in the series finale.

Difficult could well be the word that coach Kurtis Winrow uses to describe the weekend for the U16 Voyageurs. Facing the Oshawa Legionaires, a team that is traditionally among the gold standard in the PBLO, the locals dropped three straight games (14-3, 9-0, 10-0), with two weeks of workouts scheduled before Sudbury welcomes the London Badgers to northern Ontario on June 4th/5th.

The U16 Voyageurs could only muster a grand total of eight hits over the course of three games, with no player registering more than one.

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