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Napanee undefeated after first day of Canadian junior fastball

August 6, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

A big play afield in the first inning last night sparked the Napanee Express to a win over an old nemesis from Alberta on the first day of the Softball Canada junior men’s championship tournament in Owen Sound.

With the lead-off man on base and one out, Alberta’s Brett Larson hit a line drive that was heading to right field. Napanee second baseman Brett Irwin, ranging to his left, snagged the ball and doubled the runner off first to end the innning.

“We were all a little bit nervous, a little bit jittery, and that play kind of lifted us and we went from there,” Napanee coach Ryan Sharpe said after his team completed a 6-1 victory over the Irma Tigers, their second win of the day at the nine-team event after a 3-0 victory over Newfoundland Monday morning.

Many members of the Alberta team are familiar to members of the Express who were stymied by the Tigers at the last two national midget championship tournaments. In 2011 Irma eliminated Napanee from the playoff round and last year the Tigers defeated the Express there twice.

Sharpe said he’s not familiar with the history between the teams, but he was certainly prepared for the present.

“We had a game plan, we had a small scouting report on the pitcher and we just had great at-bats,” he said. Alberta’s Carson Soucy allowed 10 hits in five innings before being replaced.

“We made him throw a lot of pitches, we got pitches we could handle, and by the second time through the batting order, we were getting base runners on and we were able to cash them in,” Sharpe said.

“Our bats came alive at the right time.”

Napanee took the lead with two runs in the fourth inning and established a cushion with four more in the fifth.

Run-scoring singles by Taylor Brown and Craig Lyons produced the second-inning runs. In the fifth, Cole Bolton singled and Curtis Leonard hit Napanee’s first home run of the tournament. Then followed a single by pitcher Greg Hammell, a one-out double by Jarrett Williams and a single by Lyons.

Alberta scored its only run in the bottom of the fourth, on a lead-off triple by Parker McKay and a sacrifice fly.

Seven different players hit safely in for Napanee, with Leonard, Hammell, Brown and Lyons collecting two apiece among 11 Express hits.

“We hit the ball well, up and down the lineup,” Sharpe said. “It was a good day.”

Hammell threw a complete-game four-hitter, striking out six and walking one. He and catcher Lyons, both added for the tournament from Owen Sound, drew specific praise from Sharpe.

“They did a fantastic job,” Sharpe said. “They were on cue every pitch, talking to one another, and we had some great defensive plays behind us. Barry Hogeboom made some great plays at first.

“We did a good job to keep them to one run.”

Indeed, the Express played error-free ball for the day.

In Monday morning’s game, Napanee scored all of its runs with two out. Starter Brandon Sands pitched four no-hit innings for the Express and Hammell closed with three scoreless innings of relief.

Napanee opened scoring in the bottom of the first inning, when Cole Bolton led off with a triple and was driven home by a single by Sloan Creighton. In the second Michael Jordan, the Express’ No. 9 hitter, walked and he eventually scored on a bases-loaded walk by Creighton.

Jordan scored Napanee’s other run in the sixth, when he singled, moved up on a sacrifice and came home on a wild pitch. Newfoundland went in order in the top of the seventh, as Hammell struck out two of the three.

The Express left the bases loaded in each of the first two innings but they didn’t come to regret it as Sands and Hammels handcuffed the Newfoundlanders on just three hits. Newfoundland’s best chance came against Hammell in the fifth inning, when it loaded the bases with two out, but the righthander got out of it on a line drive to shortstop Brett Hall.

Leonard and Sands each had two hits in an eight-hit Napanee attack. Sands struck out three and allowed just one base runner, via a walk, while Hammell struck out five in three innings and walked two.

Tuesday afternoon Napanee will face Saskatoon, a two-time mercy-rule loser Monday, 19-1 to Alberta and 10-2 to Wiarton. At night, Napanee will play Ontario champion Wiarton at 8:30.

Linescores

Newfoundland          000     000     0          —        0          3          0

Napanee         110     001     x          —        3          8          0

Mark Power (L,0-1) and Ryan Kirk; Brandon Sands (W,1-0), Greg Hammell (S,1) (5) and Cody Brooks.

Napanee         000     240     0          —        6          11       0

Alberta           000     100     0          —        1          4          3

Greg Hammell (W,1-0) and Craig Lyons; Carson Soucy (L,0-1), Cody Anthony (6) and Brett Larson. HR: Nap — Curtis Leonard (1).

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