Never-say-die attitude lifts RiverCats to provincial title
Many defining moments come into play for any championship team.
The Duncan RiverCats Peewee AA boys can look to several factors that separated them from a pack of very good baseball teams at the provincial championships in Port Coquitlam.
The RiverCats survived — and actually thrived — in pressure-packed situations to capture the B.C. crown that landed a berth in the Western Canadian finals at Swift Current, Saskatchewan Aug. 14 to 18.
Head coach Ken Ramwell and his right-hand man Western Higbie can only marvel at how this team responded to clutch moments to land the title — particularly during the semifinals and final.
The RiverCats also had to shake off the effects of their first loss of summer ball during the round robin to get the job done.
“The kids played great,’’ said Higbie. “It was unreal.’’
It wasn’t until the last out was made that the RiverCats responded like you’d expect real kids to do. They were too focused before that time to do anything to change their fortunes.
“Then the kids had some fun,’’ said Higbie.
Before the RiverCats received the championship banner, some individual accolades were bestowed upon the team, with Jackson Stephen named tournament MVP and Gavin Pringle the top pitcher.
The RiverCats opened the tournament with a 12-1 mercy rule victory over Richmond behind the pitching of Billy Ramwell and Pringle, toppled Abbotsford 9-2 as Stephen and Josh Hill combined their pitching efforts and then defeated Prince George 10-3 with outstanding pitching contributions from Matteo Iorio and Luc Wilson.
In that Prince George game, “it was close the first two or three innings,’’ pointed out Higbie. “They actually had a pretty good pitcher.’’
Then things really got interesting, as Duncan completed the round robin against Chilliwack.
Despite hitting three solo homers — two by Iorio and one by Connor Caskenette — the RiverCats ended up losing 5-4.
That led to a barnburner in the semifinal against Vernon where the RiverCats’ true character emerged.
They took a 1-0 lead in the first when Stephen singled in Mike Arscott and made it 2-0 in the second when Wilson drove Hill home.
It became 3-0 in the third, as Arscott’s single was followed by another RBI single from Stephen in a scene identical to the first inning.
Pringle, meanwhile, was mowing Vernon down. He struck out the side three times in the first four innings.
In the fifth, Billy Ramwell’s single scored Stephen but Vernon replied with one to make it 4-2.
Pringle came out upon reaching his pitch limit and Vernon responded with a three-run homer to go ahead 5-4.
With the game on the line in the seventh, Duncan tied it on Morley Scott’s single that scored Hill.
In the eighth, Arscott was the hero, driving in Pringle with the winning run for a 6-5 extra-inning triumph.
“It was a really well-played game by both teams,’’ said Higbie.
The final was a rematch with Chilliwack and the RiverCats promptly fell behind 3-0 in the first.
“It didn’t seem to faze them,’’ said Higbie.
Back-to-back singles by Caskenette and Hayden Plester and a double by Arscott scored two and an Iorio RBI produced a third run in the third.
Brody Deverill’s run on a Scott single gave Duncan the lead in the fourth, but Chilliwack tied it again.
The fifth brought a single from Arscott and an RBI hit from Stephen.
Into the seventh, Duncan padded the lead to 7-4 and eventually won by that margin, as Caskenette and Plester singled, Pringle was hit by a pitch and Arscott singled.
The RiverCats are busy getting ready for the westerns where they open against the Unity Cardinals of Saskatchewan next Friday.
The RiverCats have added Campbell River's Connor Hall and Brodie Comerford as their two pick-up players for the tournament.