Vernon Canadians went into the provincial midget AAA baseball finals in Richmond seeded third.
They came out with the bronze medal.
The Cs went 2-1 in the preliminary round before dropping a heartbreaking 1-0 semifinal decision to Burnaby in the semifinals.
“Every game we were involved in was a great baseball game,” said Vernon manager Ken Liefke.
“The pitchers were phenomenal, all four games were complete games, and our defence was tops in the tournament. We allowed five runs in four games and still finished in third place. This shows how great the games and teams were in this tournament.”
The Canadians opened with a 2-1 loss to South Fraser. Corey Anderson went seven innings on the mound, striking out four and allowed just three hits, one of them being a two-run homer. Anderson was Vernon’s player of the game.
The Cs rebounded to down Aldergrove 5-2 behind the complete game from player of the game Ty Wellman, who struck out five in one of his best outings of the year.
Vernon completed the preliminary round by blanking Okanagan rivals Kelowna Sun Devils 4-0 as player of the game Jarod Leroux’s nasty curve ball baffled the Kelowna hitters. Leroux allowed just one hit and struck out four.
The result left Vernon in a three-way tie in its pool with Kelowna and South Fraser.
“We were the top seed as we only had two runs against us as any games against Aldergrove were erased,” said Liefke.
The formula put Vernon into the semifinals against Burnaby, where Anderson threw another gem, going seven innings and striking out four.
Dylan Eckland was Vernon’s player of the game for his defence at third base, which included a number of sparkling defensive plays.
Liefke, joined on the bench by coaches Chris Wellman and Rick Leroux, expressed pride in their team’s effort throughout the long season.
“They played hard all year and were absolutely incredible this past weekend,” said Liefke. “They left everything they had on the field. This is the best finish for a Vernon team since the 1990s.”
In just their second year of operation in the AAA league, the Cs have become an organization to be reckoned with, and they’ve drawn the eyes of college programs around the province.
“There are many aspects of our AAA program that I am proud of,” said Liefke. “First off, we have three players this year leaving to play college ball and two players did that last year. Young players who want to be looked at have to realize this is the place to play.
“Vernon has become a force in the baseball world again, in our province, and we are looking forward to another strong season next year. You know Vernon is doing it right when many of the other coaches and other teams’ parents come up to me and tell me that we are a classy team and they have great respect for our team.”
The Cs went 25-15 in the season and would like to express thanks to their sponsors: Geotech Drilling, Juan O’Quinn Law, Arden Tile, C & A Contracting, Lavington Turf Farm, Lavington Sand and Gravel, The Tile Guy, Exchange-A-Blade and Doyle’s Custom Rock Walls.
The Cowichan Valley Mustangs defeated Burnaby 3-2 in extra innings in the gold-medal match.
The Mustangs – who swept a pair of one-run games from the Canadians in Duncan on the final weekend of the regular season – were a perfect 5-0 at the provincials.
Cowichan Valley advanced to the final with a 3-1 win over South Fraser in the semis.
South Fraser defeated Kelowna 7-3 in the tiebreaker to advance to the final four.