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Napanee enters playoffs at Canadian junior fastball as top seed

August 9, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Napanee Express has the top seed going into the playoff round at the Softball Canada junior men’s championship in Owen Sound, after winning both of its games on the final day of preliminary play Thursday.

The Express finished the round-robin portion of the nine-team tournament with a 7-1 record after they defeated the Calahoo Chiefs 7-0 in the afternoon and the Saskatchewan champion Saskatoon Diamondbacks 5-3 in the finale of the regular schedule last night.

Newfoundland, which lost one of its two games Thursday, and Ontario champion Wiarton — the only team to defeat Napanee in the round-robin — each finished with a 6-2 record. Saskatchewan tied with Alberta at 5-3 for fourth place, but was awarded the higher seeding by virtue of a 7-6 extra-inning win over the Albertans Tuesday.

The top four teams get the so-called double life, meaning they have to be beaten twice to be eliminated. Napanee gets a rematch with Saskatchewan Friday night at 6:30 while Wiarton will play defending champion Newfoundland in the other game that will send the loser scrapping with the bottom four playoff teams for survival.

The other four teams to make the playoffs — Alberta, Calahoo, Stratford and the host team from Keady — will be eliminated with their next loss.

Napanee had long since secured its double life by the time Thursday night’s game rolled around but the Express played as if everything depended on its outcome. Seven different players had base-hits, pitcher Greg Hammell threw a complete-game six-hitter — striking out eight and walking just one — a nifty double play killed Saskatchewan’s best rally and the bench contributed a solo home run that padded a one-run lead in the top of the seventh inning.

“It was tight, a real battle,” Napanee coach Ryan Sharpe said. “They’re a pretty good ball club.”

Saskatchewan scored first, with two runs in the bottom of the third inning. Kyle Beierle led off with a double and he scored on a single by Eric Tarnowski, who then stole second and scored on a base-hit by Brandon Dauvin. With one out, Express second baseman Taylor Brown turned a sharply hit ground ball into a double play to end the threat.

“He tagged the runner and went to first,” Sharpe said, “and Brett Irwin made a great catch, because (Brown) zinged it over there pretty hard. It was a big play.”

Brown, the first batter in the top of the fourth, drew a base on balls and the Express then rattled off five consecutive singles before Saskatchewan pitcher Logan Frohaug could get anybody out.

Base-hits by Curtis Leonard and Sloan Creighton loaded the bases and the first run scored on a hit by Jarrett Williams. Two came home on a single by Hammell and the fourth scored on a hit by Craig Lyons.

It was a remarkable outburst, if for no other reason than in the entire rest of the game, Frohaug allowed just two other hits.

“We just had some good at-bats,” Sharpe said. “We were a little bit more patient, the boys got their pitch. It was just one of those things. We hit a lot of balls hard tonight.”

Saskatchewan closed to within one with a run in the bottom of the sixth inning but pinch-hitter Cody Brooks led off the Napanee seventh with a home run to straightaway centre field.

“It was a rise ball and he just went up and got it,” Sharpe said. “It was hit sky high but it had enough legs to get over the fence. It was a big lift.

“Cody’s known to hit a few home runs here and there. He got off to kind of a slower start this week. He’s just starting to get hot and there’s no better time to get hot than the start of the playoff round.”

Hottest among the Napanee hitters, though, is Leonard, who had four hits yesterday, three of them in the afternoon game against Calahoo. He ended the preliminary round hitting .519 (14-for-27) with 10 runs batted in.

Next on the Express hit parade was Williams at .438 (7-for-16) but Sharpe is proud of the fact that all 17 of his players have contributed to the team’s success, with 16 of them collecting at least one hit offensively, and 10 of them finishing the round-robin with a batting average of .290 or better.

In Thursday’s first game Braden Scott threw a superb one-hit shutout in the five-inning victory over Calahoo.

“He threw the ball very well,” Sharpe said.

Indeed.

Scott struck out eight, didn’t walk a man and faced just one batter over the minimum in collecting his second victory of the tournament. Ian Gadoury’s single leading off the third inning was the only blemish on Scott’s performance.

His teammates, meanwhile, were pounding two Calahoo pitchers for 12 hits, stopping the game after just four innings, as per the tournament’s mercy rule.

Calahoo, the No. 2 Alberta team at this tournament, got a boost when it upset Alberta champion Irma 5-3 Thursday morning, scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to do so. The win boosted the Chiefs’ record to 3-4 but the magic didn’t continue against Napanee, which got its first run from its second batter, Brown, who tripled and scored on a passed ball.

A lead-off single by Leonard was cashed in the second inning by Brandon Sands’ double. Sands, however, was out in a rundown trying to stretch his hit and the bases were, therefore, empty when Brooks followed with his first home run of the day.

Four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning clinched the victory for the Express. With one out Cole Bolton singled, Brown hit his second triple of the game and Leonard doubled. Two errors followed, Scott drove a man home with a single and the rally finally ended 10 batters after it started with the bases loaded with Napanee runners.

Linescores

Calahoo, Alta. 000     00       —        0          1          3

Napanee         102     04x     —        7          12       0

(five innings, mercy)

Braden Scott (W,2-0) and Cody Brooks; Wyatt Berube (L,0-3), Josh Sevcik (4) and Keegan Arcand. HR: Nap — Brooks (1).

Napanee         000     400     1          —        5          7          1

Saskatchewan            002     001     0          —        3          6          0

Greg Hammell (W,2-1) and Craig Lyons; Logan Frohaug (L,1-1) and Dylan Klassen. HR: Nap — Cody Brooks (2).

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