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Napanee 4-2 going into final day of preliminary play at Canadian junior fastball

August 14, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Napanee Express is awake at the Canadian junior fastball championship, and to the other teams there it surely seems like the Ontario champions got up on the wrong side of the bed.

Ever since losing its third game of the tournament Tuesday morning, falling to 1-2, the Express has been an unpleasant team to play. Wednesday night it won its third game in a row, 12-2 over the Quebec representative, the Express of St-Leonard d’Aston.

In the three games since losing 9-3 to the Saskatoon Diamondbacks Tuesday morning, Napanee has outscored its victims 37-7.

“It was a tough game, the guys just came out flat,” Express coach Brent Mills said of that loss, one that may prove to be pivotal for Napanee in its quest to improve on a silver-medal performance of last year.

“It was a bit of a wake-up call, just to show that if we don’t show up, the other teams are good enough to put us in our place.”

Napanee has been the one putting opponents in their place ever since. Now 4-2, the Express gave their last three victims a rude awakening, indeed, as Napanee batted first in each of those games and scored six, five and four runs in the respective first innings.

“(Saskatoon) put us to a point where we realized that if we don’t show up with our best game, we aren’t going to win easily,” Mills said. “We’ve been playing unbelievable since then. Everybody’s really dialed in so it’s looking good going into tomorrow.”

Mills said the team changed its routine after the Saskatoon game, “showing up (later) to the park, shortening things up so they don’t get restless before the game.

“We’re a little more focused, ready to go.”

Napanee and Quebec both entered Wednesday night’s game in Irma, Alta., at 3-2 but the Ontario Express rendered that statistic moot by jumping to a 7-0 lead in the second inning.

Cole Bolton had three hits and scored three runs for Napanee, while Taylor Brown had a double, a two-run home run and a sacrifice fly. Ty Sebastian, Jordan Mills and winning pitcher Erick Morgan each had two hits in a 13-hit Napanee attack.

Two home runs in the second inning, a solo shot by Bolton and a two-run shot by Sebastien, turned the game into a rout.

Morgan allowed four hits in four innings, striking out three and walking one Quebec batter.

All of Napanee’s wins have come in less than the regulation seven innings. In its six games the Express has scored 62 runs in just 34 innings.

Wednesday began with a 12-3 win over the Stratford Cubs, the No. 2 Ontario team at the tournament. Playing the first game of the day, Tyson Zehr and Sebastian each had three hits and each hit a home run for Napanee, which jumped to a 5-0 lead in the first inning, scoring all of its runs after two were out with no one on base.

Only one man had crossed the plate when a Stratford error prolonged the inning and the Cubs paid for it four batters later when Zehr hit a three-run home run.

Sebastian’s solo shot in the third inning extended Napanee’s lead to 6-2 and the Express led 6-3 when it scored six runs in the top of the fifth to invoke the mercy rule. Two were out and only one run was in when the floodgates opened again for Napanee. After back-to-back doubles by Sebastian and Braden Scott started the inning, Zehr tripled, Michael Jordan doubled and Bolton greeted Stratford reliever Johnny Baker with a three-run homer.

Mills said his team was ready for the challenge of facing a team that had won three of its first four games.

“It was a good way to start the day, with a big game,” Mills said. “That was the team we beat in the final at the provincial (elimination tournament) so that was a huge win for us, after kind of stumbling a little bit (Tuesday) morning. They came out ready to go.”

Mills said his players understood the significance of not allowing Stratford to be the third contending team — after Owen Sound and Saskatoon — to gain the upper hand over Napanee in potential tie-breaking scenarios for playoff positions.

“We came out really well and it was great to get on him early,” Mills said of Stratford pitcher Tyler Randerson, whose three-hit shutout stands as the only loss anybody’s been able to pin on Owen Sound through the first six games.

“They were riding pretty high, but we showed them what we had,” Mills said.

Napanee collected 10 hits, while Express pitcher Brandon Sands allowed six hits, the best of which was a two-run home run by Randerson with no one out in the second inning.

Sands struck out five and walked two.

Owen Sound stunned the host team, the previously unbeaten Irma Tigers, 15-0 in Wednesday’s last game, one the mercy rule ended after just three innings. Both of those teams are now 5-1 going into the final day of the preliminary round Thursday.

Napanee and the Saskatoon Diamondbacks are both 4-2. Quebec is 3-3, as is Stratford, which, after starting the day 3-1, subsequently lost 7-5 to the Saskatoon Bullets, who claimed their first win of the week-long competition.

Napanee will conclude the round-robin portion of the tournament with games today against the Bullets, 1-5, at noon EDT, and against Irma, at 5 p.m. It will be the third day in a row that the Express has played the first game of the day.

Eight of the nine teams will make the playoff round, beginning Friday. The top four will have the so-called double life, meaning they’ll have to be beaten twice to be eliminated. Teams that finish fifth through eighth can afford just one defeat before they are ousted.

Linescores

Napanee         430     05       —        12       13       0

Quebec           001     10       —        2          4          1

(five innings, mercy)

Erick Morgan (W,1-0), Cole Bolton (5) and Brandon Blunt; Marc-Andre Villeneuve (L,3-2), Alexandre Lemieux (2) and Francois-Charles Rene. HRs: Nap — Ty Sebastian (3), Cole Bolton (2), Taylor Brown (1).

Napanee         501     06 —  12       10       0

Stratford        020     10       —        3          6          1

(five innings, mercy)

Brandon Sands (W,1-0) and Brandon Blunt; Tyler Randerson (L,1-1), Johnny Baker (5) and Nick Penner, Tom Fischer (5). HRs: Nap — Tyson Zehr (1), Ty Sebastian (2), Cole Bolton (1); Sfd — Tyler Randerson (1).

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