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Napanee midgets undefeated going into playoff round at Western Canada tournament

August 4, 2014

Napanee Express emerged Sunday afternoon from the preliminary round as the only undefeated team at the Western Canada Midget Fastball Tournament in the Battlefords, Sask.

The Express won its sixth straight game, 5-4 over the Tigers of Irma, Alta., to earn a berth in Sunday night’s playoff opener against the B.C. champion Fraser Valley Vipers. Those were the two teams to end the round-robin portion of the tournament with the so-called double life, meaning they have to be beaten twice to be eliminated.

For the remainder of the teams, one more loss at this point will send the loser to the sidelines.

Napanee edged Fraser Valley 16-0 Friday night in its first game at the four-day, seven-team tournament.

Against Irma, a village 180 kilometres southeast of Edmonton—whose teams have bedevilled Napanee squads at national tournaments for years—the Express fell behind 3-0 in the first inning but clambered back with two runs in the third, two in the fourth and a single run in the fifth.

The Tigers parlayed two singles, two Napanee errors and a passed ball into their three first-inning runs. In the Express third, the first two batters reached on errors and they both subsequently scored, the last on the only hit of the inning, a single by Brandon Tucker.

A lead-off error, a single and three passed balls produced the two Napanee runs in the fourth and the eventual running run scored one inning later after Alex Douglas tripled to right field and scored on a single by Shane McNish.

Trailing by a run in the seventh inning, Irma put its first two runners — the No. 8 and 9 hitters — on base, but both were erased on the basepaths.

Each team managed just five hits in the game, while Napanee made four of the seven errors committed in the field.

Douglas struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter to claim the pitching win. Irma pitcher Jack Mckae struck out 13 and walked four.

Earlier Sunday, Napanee defeated the Nanaimo, B.C., Breakers 14-2. That followed wins Saturday of 13-0 over the Calahoon, Alta., Chiefs and 13-9 over the Conquest Coyotes of Saskatchewan.

Napanee sent 13 men to the plate and scored eight runs in the first inning against Nanaimo. Keegan Scott hit for the cycle and drove in five runs, four of them with a first-inning grand-slam home run.

Douglas, the next batter, also homered for Napanee, while Ty McNish had a three-run double before the first-inning dust settled.

Nathan Lee was the winning pitcher, with a five-inning three-hitter. He struck out five.

Saturday against Calahoo, the Express collected 15 hits as they broke open a two-run ball game with six runs in the top of the third.

Marcus Rice, Tucker and Scott had three hits apiece for Napanee. Tucker blasted a pair of home runs and drove in four.

Winning pitcher Kyle Ainsley faced just one batter over the minimum and needed only 50 pitches to complete a one-hitter. He struck out three in five innings, as the Express invoked the mercy rule on an opponent for the third time in its first four games.

The Express had a scare Saturday morning in its game against Conquest, which led 8-3 after four innings. Napanee scored four runs in the fifth inning, took the lead with three more in the sixth and added three runs of insurance in the ninth.

Tucker led off the fifth inning with a home run, and the No. 2 Saskatchewan team then walked the bases loaded. With two out Blake Hurley singled and Ty McNish delivered two more runs with another base hit. In the sixth, a walk and three one-out singles, the last a two-run stroke by Lee, put Napanee into the lead. Shane McNish scored what proved to be the winning run on a passed ball.

Three singles and an error enabled Napanee to reach double digits for the third game in a row. By this point, the Express had scored 38 runs in its first 16 innings of the tournament.

Shane McNish had four hits and Ty McNish had three in a 16-hit Napanee attack. Hurley and Lee each drove in three runs, while Tucker and Douglas each hit a home run.

Working in relief of Rice, Douglas got the pitching win, striking out seven in four innings.

 

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