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Napanee wins gold medal at Western Canada midget fastball

August 4, 2014

Runs came thick and fast in the championship game of the Western Canada Midget Fastball Championship Monday afternoon, but in a shootout no one at this tournament was going to out-gun the Napanee Express.

Sure enough, the Express spotted the Irma, Alta., Tigers a five-run first-inning lead but came back to post a 17-8 win in the final game of the four-day, seven-team event.

Napanee was undefeated in eight games, and in six of them they were so far ahead after five innings the mercy rule had to be invoked.

That was the case in the championship contest, where Keegan Scott’s grand-slam home run to straightaway centre field ended things with one out in the bottom of the fifth.

In the tournament, Napanee scored 98 runs, though mercy-shortened games allowed them to bat in just 39 innings.

The Express demonstrated the depth of Ontario fastball at a tournament that included the British Columbia champion and top teams from Alberta and Saskatchewan. Napanee finished fifth at the Ontario elimination tournament, from where the top four teams qualified for the national championship in Gander, NL.

In Monday’s final, the Alberta team scored five runs in the top of the first inning but Napanee rallied to tie the score in the home half. Irma persisted, with two more runs in the top of the second but the Express took the lead for good with four in the bottom half of the inning.

Napanee led 9-8 when it scored twice in the fourth inning, then six runs in the fifth capped a splendid weekend where the players rewarded the faith of coach Brent Mills that no deficit would be too severe to overcome.

Indeed, the only games where Napanee was seriously threatened came against the Conquest Coyotes of Saskatchewan, where the Express trailed 8-3 after four innings but came back to win 13-9, and the preliminary-round match with Irma, when Napanee fell behind 3-0 in the first inning but rallied for a 5-4 win.

Jack Mckae hit a lead-off home run in both the first and second innings for Irma, and Tyler Digginstein’s one-out, two-run double was the big blow in the Tigers’ first-inning outburst.

In the bottom of the first, five of the first six Napanee batters reached base in a rally capped by a grand-slam home run to left-centre field by Alex Douglas. A two-run double by Scott keyed the go-ahead rally in the second inning.

Scott finished the game with a double, triple and home run, driving in seven runs. Douglas had a home run and triple, with five RBI.

Napanee had 12 hits, and was helped by five Irma errors.

Douglas was touched for three home runs among the seven hits he permitted, and he allowed all the Irma runs. Kyle Ainsley hurled two innings of one-hit relief.

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