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Napanee suffers first defeat at Canadian junior fastball

August 7, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Two of the three pillars on which the Napanee Express built a perfect record through the first day and a half of the Softball Canada junior men’s championship betrayed them Tuesday night.

Napanee batters, responsible for 33 hits in the first three games of the nine-team tournament, managed just one against the Ontario-champion Wiarton Red Devils. After making not one error in the first three games, the Express committed six.

Combined, those two elements led to a 6-1 loss to Wiarton, leaving the Red Devils the only undefeated team at the national championship in Owen Sound.

“They put a couple of hits together, we made a few errors, a few mistakes, and they got some runs,” Napanee coach Ryan Sharpe said. “It’s not the end of the world, though. We’re pretty happy with the start.”

Had anyone suggested it before the tournament began, Sharpe said he’d have been delighted to accept three victories from the first two days of competition.

“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s pretty tough to go 8-0 in this tournament. With the schedule that we had, with three of the top teams in the first two days, we’re pretty happy with the 3-1 record so far.

“We just didn’t get some bounces tonight, a couple of things didn’t go our way, but that’s fastball. They got a couple of breaks and we didn’t. We’re going to take the 1-1 today and move on.”

Napanee opened scoring in the top of the fifth inning, when No. 9 hitter Brett Irwin led off with a triple, the first hit surrendered by Wiarton pitcher Michael Lagace-Roote and, ultimately, the only one he would allow. Irwin, batting .444 through the first two days, scored on a sacrifice fly by starting pitcher Cole Bolton.

The score stayed that way until disaster struck the Express in the bottom of the sixth inning. With Greg Hammell replacing Bolton to start the inning, Wiarton sent 10 men to the plate and scored all six of its runs, requiring just four base-hits to do so thanks to five Napanee errors.

An RBI double by Ty Sebastian and a two-run single by Lagace-Roote were the key hits, while the final two runs scored on a two-out error by second baseman Irwin.

“They’re a good team, they’re deep,” Sharpe said, “and when you make errors it will cost you and they made us pay.

“They’re a good club but so are we. There’s always highs and lows in this tournament. We’ll pick ourselves back up and go to work tomorrow.”

Napanee’s pitching had been superb, allowing just one run in the Express’ first three games. Removing Bolton, who was pitching a one-hit shutout through the first five innings, was “just a hunch,” Sharpe said.

“It’s hard at this level to throw a complete game,” he explained. “The third time around the batting order sometimes (teams figure out a pitcher). We just thought a different style of pitching, different release point, would maybe get us through but unfortunately it didn’t.

“Cole threw a great game and we were very pleased with that. Greg didn’t do a bad job, either, we just made some mistakes, they got some key hits and, you know, (stuff) happens.”

Lagace-Roote struck out 13 Napanee batters, and in 15 innings at this tournament he has fanned 32, while allowing just four hits. At last year’s national with Owen Sound, the right-hander from New Hamburg was 4-0 in the preliminary round with three shutouts and 39 strikeouts in 21 innings.

The Express will resume play this afternoon at 2 o’clock against the No. 3 Ontario team, the Stratford Cubs, who are 1-3 at the end of Day 2. At the provincial qualifying tournament, Napanee defeated Stratford 8-1 in the losers’ side semifinal to reach the championship game.

In its first game Tuesday, Napanee posted a 9-0 afternoon victory over the Saskatoon Bullets in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule. It was the third time in four games that the winless Bullets, the No. 2 team from Saskatchewan, were mercied.

Napanee put this one away early, with two runs in the first inning and six runs in the second. Sloan Creighton singled to drive in both the first-inning runs, and he delivered an RBI triple in the second, when Curtis Leonard’s three-run home run was the big blow. It was his second homer of the tournament.

Seven different players had two hits apiece in a 14-hit Napanee attack.

Bolton struck out five in his two-inning tournament debut. Braden Scott collected the win with three innings of two-hit, six-strikeout relief.

Linescores

Napanee         261     00       —        9          14       0

Saskatoon       000     00       —        0          3          1

Cole Bolton, Braden Scott (W,1-0) (3) and Cody Brooks; Alex Fehr (L,0-2), Curtis Forcier (2) and Andrew Schwab. HR: Nap — Curtis Leonard (2).

Napanee         000     010     0          —        1          1          6

Ontario           000     006     x          —        6          5          1

Cole Bolton, Greg Hammell (L,1-1) (6) and Cody Brooks, Craig Lyons (6); Michael Lagace-Roote (W,2-0) and Benjamin Heinbuch.

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