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Napanee wins again; owns share of first place at Canadian junior fastball

August 8, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Napanee Express finds itself with a share of first place as the Softball Canada junior men’s championship in Owen Sound heads into the final day of preliminary play Thursday.

Napanee won both of its games Wednesday, 12-3 over the Stratford Cubs and 2-1 over the host Keady Jets, to improve its record in the nine-team tournament to 5-1. Also at 5-1 is defending champion Newfoundland, which handed the Ontario champion Wiarton Red Devils their first defeat of the week, 6-4, Wednesday afternoon.

Wiarton lost last night 5-3 to Alberta and as a result both of those teams find themselves with a share of third place at 4-2.

For the second time Wednesday, Napanee had to come from behind to win last night, as they trailed 1-0 going into the bottom of the fifth. Pitcher Cole Bolton reached base on the game’s only error to start the inning and one out later he scored on a single by Curtis Leonard.

Jarrett Williams drove Leonard home with the game-winning run with a two-out single against Jets pitcher Brandon Peck. A righthander from Surrey, B.C., Peck was 0-5 at this tournament for British Columbia last year.

“We battled hard,” Express coach Ryan Sharpe said. “Their pitcher threw really well and we didn’t have a whole lot of energy.

“We didn’t play our best but we got the job done, so that was good to see.”

Bolton and Williams had two hits apiece in an eight-hit Napanee attack and Bolton checked the Jets on six hits, striking out five and walking just one. For the fourth time in six games the Express played error-free ball in the field.

Still, Sharpe said, something was missing.

“It was a game that we could have used a little more enthusiasm,” he said. “It was a big game for us. We kind of looked tired and a little flat but we played very well, defensively, we got good pitching and finally some timely hitting and managed to push some runs across.”

Sub-par efforts are difficult to avoid at tournaments such as this, Sharpe said.

“Through the course of the year in tournaments you maybe play five games in a weekend,” he said. “That was our sixth game in three days. It’s pretty demanding and there are so many highs and so many lows in a tournament like this.

“It’s just a thing where the boys have to take care of themselves — make sure they get rest when they can. We’ve got a little time off tonight and we’re not back at it until 4 o’clock tomorrow afternoon so it’s a good time to get some rest.”

Napanee rebounded nicely from its first defeat Tuesday night with its win over Stratford Wednesday afternoon. The Express struck early with two runs in the top of the first but Stratford scored three times in the home half. Napanee tied the game in the second, and scored in every inning through the fifth to take a 7-3 lead. Five runs in the top of the seventh sealed the verdict.

After a ground out and Williams’ single delivered two runs in the first inning for the Express, Napanee pitcher Brandon Sands walked the first two Stratford batters he faced. A run-scoring ground out and a two-out, two-run home run by Cody Werner put Stratford in the lead.

With the score tied in the bottom of the second, Stratford threatened again, when a single and an error put two men on base with nobody out. After a runner was picked off second, Sands struck out the next two batters to end the rally.

That was the last hit Stratford would get until a two-out single in the seventh, by which time Napanee had its nine-run lead.

The game remained close until Napanee scored twice in the top of the fifth, on run-scoring singles by Bolton and Leonard, to make the score 7-3. In the top of the seventh, two runs scored on a home run by Taylor Brown, two more on a ball hit by Brett Hall into right field that was misplayed and another on an error to the shortstop.

Leonard finished the game with three hits for Napanee, while Bolton, Williams and catcher Cody Brooks had two hits apiece. Sands struck out two and walked three in five innings, while Bolton neither fanned nor walked a batter in two scoreless frames.

Newfoundland, meanwhile, has quietly worked its way up the standings with five straight wins following a tournament-opening 3-0 loss to Napanee on Monday morning.

“We’re going to have to watch out for them,” Sharpe said of a Kelly’s Pub team that has won the national title three times in the last seven years.

“They’re coming on pretty hot right now. They’re getting good pitching and their bats are coming alive, just like they always do in a tournament like this. They always seem to start out slow but they come alive on Day 3, Day 4. We’re hopefully going to see them in the playoff round and we’re going to have to be pretty sharp.”

To put themselves in an advantageous position for the playoffs, Napanee will first have to deal with the Calahoo Chiefs, the No. 2 Alberta team here, and the Saskatoon Diamondbacks, the other 4-2 team with a share of third place going into the final day of preliminary play.

It’s the 2-4 Calahoo team that has Sharpe nervous, after the close call with Keady, a team with just one win in six games.

“There’s pretty good depth in this tournament, all nine teams,” he said. “Sask 2 hasn’t won yet … but even with Keady tonight, if you’re not sharp and you don’t show up, they could knock you off and you definitely don’t want to lose a game to a spoiler.

“(Calahoo) only has two wins but we’ve got to be prepared, we’ve got to be ready and we’ve got to be hungry for that one.”

Linescores

Napanee         211     120     5          —        12       10       1

Stratford        300     000     0          —        3          3          4

Brandon Sands (W,2-0), Cole Bolton (6) and Cody Brooks; Sean de Groot (L,0-1), Tyler Pauli (5) and Adam Near. HR: Nap — Taylor Brown (1).

Keady, Ont.    000     100     0          —        1          6          1

Napanee         000     020     x          —        2          8          0

Brandon Peck (L,1-2) and Tyler Postill; Cole Bolton (W,1-0) and Cody Brooks.

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