Indians DON'T STOP BELIEVING!
Posted July 10, 2016
The Tri City Indians became the first team ever in Bantam AAA to run the table and advance to the Provincials after losing their first game in the Wild Card Tournament. The Indians lost their opener 8 - 3 to the Cloverdale Spurs then relied on good pitching and a very stingy defence allowing only 3 runs in their next 4 games. The Indians played 4 elimination games knocking out and sending 4 teams home by defeating the Victoria Red Eagles 9-1, North Island Royals 6-1, Cloverdale Spurs 5-0, and the Chilliwack Cougars 2-1.
It took 64 games and many ups and downs but the Tribe never stopped believing and the boys knew that offence was the fun part of the game but defence is hard work and to be successful you need to keep the runs down to a minimum. The Indians as they have done all seaon continued to use all their arms using 9 pitchers in the tournament and gave up just 11 runs in 5 games for an average of 2.20 runs against per game.
A special thanks goes out to BC Minor Bantam AAA Director Mike Kelly and Co-Tournament Directors Shauna Stanyer and Michael Rae who had extra duties when they were forced to redo the Wild Card Schedule on very short notice after White Rock dropped out days prior to the event. Shauna and Michael had to re-book fields and change volunteer schedules around to handle all these last minute changes.
A special thanks goes out to all the Tri City parents and volunteers who kept score and pitch counts for all the games, some who even had to miss their own child's game to do this. The field crew was working double duty cursing under their breath about the heavy rains and automatic sprinkler systems that made preparing the fields very difficult, but they kept smiles on their faces. A special thanks to all the Van Minor players who on Saturday morning without any coaxing pitched in to help with the field for nearly an hour before their pre game.
All the games were played with just a small delay when all games were pushed back a couple of hours on Saturday. It takes a lot of work to put on a tournament and this special group along with help from others came together and did a great job.
Thanks to all the participating teams and parent groups who were very understanding of the circumstances and never complained when games had to be delayed and rescheduled. Last but not least thanks to all the players who played their hearts out all weekend and at the end of the day that is what this tournament was all about. The kids put on a show and there was lots of great baseball to be enjoyed by all!
The Indians have a couple of days to enjoy their victory and will be back on the field for practice on Wednesday before the Baseball BC Qualification Tournament starting in Burnaby this Thursday.
Wild Card Tournament Recap:
Game 1 Friday Cloverdale 8 Tri City Indians 3
With White Rock dropping out of the Wild Card the first opponent now changed from the Aldergrove Dodgers to the Cloverdale Spurs. This posed a couple of problems for the Tribe as Cloverdale's ace pitcher John Vulcano seemed to have a hex on the Indian batters shutting the Indians out earlier in the season. The Tribe countered with Blight on the mound knowing that if they were going to win they were going to have to eke out a couple of runs and play flawless defence.
After zeros in the first inning Cloverdale's lead off batter drew a 7 pitch walk off of Blight and the Spurs scored 2 runs without registering a hit capatalizing on 2 Indian errors staking themselves to a strong 2-0 lead.
As earlier in the season, Vulcano was masterful and owned the Indian batters striking out 9 in 4 innings. It was now 10 and a third innings that the Indians were not able to put up any runs against Volcano this year and the coaching staff made a tough decsion pulling Blight after 45 pitchers with Cloverdale leading 2-0. It was a gut wrenching decision but the coaching staff decided to get Blight out early and keep him as fresh as the could as they might need him down the stretch. They knew the odds of scoring 2 against Vulcano were slim and knowing if they did not win this game they would need to win 4 more to advance to the Provincials. It was a decision that wasn't made lightly as the coaching staff weighed the odds of scoring 3 runs on Volcano in three innings or winning 4 straight games which is something this team had not done up to this point all year. They felt that they had enough arms to win the next 4 games and figured that was a better option than burning Blight and taking their chances against a red hot Vulcano!
Cloverdale added 2 runs in the 4th and 5th innings to go up 6-0. With 2 out in the bottom of the 5th the Spurs removed Vulcano from the mound to keep him under the 75 pitch limit so he would be eligible later in the tournament. The Indians scored 2 runs off of his replacement to close the gap to 6-2 after 5 innings. The Indians needed to keep the Spurs off the board but surrendered 2 more runs in the top of the 6th before adding one of their own in the bottom of the 7th. Final score Spurs 8 Indians 3.
It was a frustrating day for the Indians as they were unable to produce any offence off of the Indan killer Vulcano. Even though they out hit the Spurs 5-3 in the game, 4 of the Spurs batters who scored reached base via walks and 2 others reached by error. The other two runs were aided by a botched pickoff and a ball that sailed into centre field when the Indian middle infield was caught sleeping on a Spur steal attempt with runners on 1st and 3rd. It was a difficult way to start a double knockout tournament. But they call it double knockout for a reason and the Indians seemed to embrace the fact that it was going to be kill or be killed from this point on.
Game 2 Friday Tri City Indians 9 Victoria Red Eagles 1
No time for the Indians to feel sorry for themselves as this game started 43 minutes after the tough loss to Cloverdale. So why not get right back up on the saddle and get it? And that's what they did. Clark got the ball and retired the first 3 Eagle batters in the top of the first. In the bottom half Indian batters Sugi, Rae, and Stanyer jumped started the offence punching out hits and the Indians were on the war path leading 2-0 after one complete.
The Indians kept the arrows slinging in the next inning breaking the game open with 4 runs to take a 6-0 lead after 2 innings. After a scoreless 3rd inning both teams traded runs in the 4th and after 4 complete the Indians led 7-1. The Indians added 2 more in the bottom of the 5th and and kept the Eagles off the board the rest of the way. The Indians out tomahawked the Eagles 14 to 3 in the hit department. Clark picked up the win pitching 5 innings of shut out ball with Sugi closing it down registering 2 scoreless innings to close the game. Final score Indians 9 Eagles 1.
Game 3 Saturday Tri City Indians 6 North Island Royals 1
A new day and a new test for the Indians as they faced a Royals teams who beat them twice in Comox by identical 2-1 scores back in May. This is another team who the Indians had trouble generating runs against and to add fuel to the fire the Royals were the 6th best offensive team in the Bantam AAA league this year and top offensive team of all the Wild Card teams averaging 5.91 runs per game. However unlike their previous meetings the Royals were in a generous mood allowing Sugi and Wilson to reach on errors and Rae clutched up with a double to knock Sugi in and give the Indians a confidence bolstering 1-0 lead after half an inning.
The Indians added 3 runs in the top of the 3rd inning when Wilson, Norris, Rae, and Stanyer reeled off consecutive hits and Blight finsihed it off with a double. North Island got one back in the bottom of the inning to make it 4-1 but that's as close as it got as the Indians added two insurance runs in the top of the 7th. Yee came in for the final three outs, slammed the door and the Indians walked away with a 6-1 victory.
Rae, pitching with a stiff back, gutted it out going 6 innings, giving up 1 run while scattering 6 hits, walking 6 and striking out 5 North Island hitters. The defence was strong throughout making many tough plays including 2 double plays. Offensively the Indians produced 13 hits. Clark led the way with a trio and Norris, Wilson, and Rae each had multiple hits in the game.
Game 4 Sunday Tri City Indians 5 Cloverdale Indians 0
As luck would have it Sunday's matchup in a sudden death game was once again the Cloverdale Spurs. Spurs manager Faulkner trotted Vulcano out to the mound to work his magic over the Indians. This time the Indians used an old card trick to help develop the game plan. 13 players strong the Indians were poised to climb to the top and conquer the Vulcano led Spurs.
Vulcano started out strong retiring the first 3 batters in the first inning. But the Indians counterd with Stanyer who was equally impressive on the hill. As the game went on the Indians were starting to solve Vulcano hitting him hard and limiting the strikeouts to a minimum. This was a different Indian team on this day and they were determined to not let one player continue to beat them.
After stranding 2 runners in the 2nd inning, the Indians 9 batter who seems to be the most popular player on the team because everytime he comes up to the plate everyone always yells "it's the nine batter" or "bottom" came to the plate to start the 3rd. Well, the nine batter who's name is Letteri led off with a hit. Imagine that. A botched pick off attempt sent Letteri to second, a passed ball brought him to third, and a clutch hit by Indians' catcher Norris delivered Letteri the last 80 feet for the Tribe's first run of the game, and their first run against Vulcano this season. Vulcano would stifle any further Indians' threats in the inning, but with the Tribe offence buzzing, Cloverdale pulled Vulcano after just 3 innings to try to shift the momentum. The strategy seemed to work as after Stanyer's 3 consecutive 3 up 3 down inning in the fourth, Cloverdale reliever Bydaweg answered with his own 3 up 3 down inning.
In the top of the fifth the Spurs offence ignited with a one out double, but a heads up defensive play by shortstop Letteri to get the lead runner at 3rd base, and a strike out by Stanyer snuffed out the threat stranding two Spurs on base. The jacked up Indians struck big in the bottom of the 5th with 4 runs to blow the game open with RBIs from Sugi, Clark, and a huge 2 RBI double by Wilson. With what seemed like a commanding 5-0 lead, Stanyer trotted out in the top of the sixth only to find himself in another jam with runners on first and third with one out. The Indians brought in Blight to put out the fire and he did just that dowsing the flames striking out the 2 and 3 hitters in dominant fashion needing only 7 pitches to abruptly end the inning. After an uneventful bottom of the sixth, the Indians sent Yee to the hill to get the last three outs and did so with an exclamation point striking out cloverdale's 4, 5, and 6 hitters on a perfect 9 pitches. Blight and Yee looked like Kansas City Royals' relievers dominating the end of the game sending the Tribe to the loser's bracket final against the pesky Chilliwack Cougars.
Game 5 Sunday Tri City Indians 2 Chilliwack Cougars 1
This was a trap game for the Indians who were coming down from a very emotional victory with little time to re-group and going against a Chilliwack Cougars team that they just defeated handily 3 weeks ago by 8-5 and 10-0 scores. On top of that there was the question of fatigue setting in as it was the Tribe's 20th game in the last 22 days.
Chilliwack was hungry for this one bringing back Dykstra who has been a work horse for the Cougars logging 42 pitches on Friday, catching games on Saturday, now they were bringing their ace back to start the final game. The Indians sent Yee back up to the mound who closed the two previous games throwing 10 pitches on Saturday and 9 pitches in the game against Cloverdale. Yee had 86 pitches left but the coaching staff were not sure how many he would be good to go.
Yee struggled early with the tight strike zone walking and hitting Cougar batters but made a great play on a sac bunt getting the lead runner then worked his way out of the jam from there. Norris took advantage of the tight Sharp Zone walking on four straight balls. Rae worked a walk and Clark singled to score Norris and give the Tribe the all important 1-0 lead. In the bottom of 3rd inning the Tribe exploited the Cougars for their 2nd run after a defensive lapse enabled Norris to once again reach base. Wilson followed up with a single moving Norris to third. With runners on 1st and 3rd Rae hit a ground ball to second base. Chilliwack tried to turn the double play to get out of the inning but Rae hustled down the line barely beating out the throw. Norris scored on the play and the Indians were sitting on a 2 run lead.
With the tight zone driving the pitch counts up Dykstra was up to 55 and Chilliwack decided to make a pitching change after 3 innings bringing in J. Hall. Hall did an outstanding job for the Cougars keeping them in the game giving up 0 hits, 0 walks and most importantly 0 runs retiring all 9 Indian batters that he faced. However on the otherside of the coin after 3 strikeouts to retire the side in the 4th. Things weren't as rosy for Yee in the 5th as he walked the leadoff Cougar batter. With 9 pitches left Yee was tiring but wanted to stay in the game. The next batter hit him hard lining out to shortstop and he got the following batter to ground out for out number 2. Yee had 2 pitches left, so he was good to go one more batter. The Indian coaches had to make a decison to stay with a dominating but tiring Yee or go to the hard throwing fresher Blight to try to get the 3rd out.
The Indian coaches pondered hard and then decided to take Hall of Fame Manager Joe Strasser's advice that "you can never take a pitcher out too early but you can leave him in too long." So with Strasser's words echoing in their heads they brought in the fresher Blight to face the Cougars' leadoff batter Hall. Hall promptly ripped the first Blight offering up the middle to score the Cougars' first run. Strasser's advice looked be on the ropes but Blight got out of the inning with a ground ball. Blight had thrown 45 pitches on Friday, 7 pitches earlier in the day against Cloverdale and was giving everything he had on the mound but the scrappy Cougar team had other ideas and they weren't going home just yet. In the top of the 6th Dykstra hit Blight hard but Sugi made the catch getting the out on the warning track. Blight struck out the next batter. Chilliwack then singled but Blight got the next batter to pop up to end the inning.
It had come down to the final 3 outs. Chilliwack seemed anti-social as they kept trying to spoil the Indian party by starting the bottom of the 7th off with a single. Chilliwack executed a perfect sac bunt moving the tying run over to 2B. Blight walked the nine batter to get back to the top of the order where an eager Hall was waiting. Blight vs Hall round 2 and this time Blight sent Hall to the canvas with a TKO striking him out on 5 pitches. With 2 out and runners on 1st and 2nd the next batter singled to load the bases.
So here it was for all the marbles with the Indians leading 2-1. Bases loaded, 2 out and the Cougars' #3 batter Dykstra coming to the plate. But wait, Dykstra one of Chilliwack's top hitters was taken out of the game after he was removed from the mound. He was re-entered in the 6th inning to hit but was once again taken out and replaced in the bottom of the inning. Rumours floated about after the game that he was taken out due to a sore arm but whatever the case he was unavailable to hit in this spot. The Chilliwack batter came to the plate stared Blight in the face and it was game on. It was a battle as the batter fouled Blight off 4 times before Blight managed to sit him down on the 7th pitch. That made for a 2-1 final and a trip to the Provincials in Nanaimo for the Tri city Indians. Seems Hall of fame Manager Strasser did known something afterall.
It has been a long tough season for the boys from Tri City. Falling behind the 8 ball early in the season and with the tough competition in the Bantam AAA league knew early on that their chances of placing in the top 7 was not very likely. A 13-19 season was not what anyone envisioned at the start of the campaign. There were many ups and downs and moments of frustration during the regular season including losing 9 games each by one run. But the boys never gave up, refused to make excuses (with a little prodding from the coaches) and continued working hard all year by keeping a positive attitude and fighting through much adversity. They were finally rewarded for their efforts this weekend. The Indians played solid defence and rode great pitching by 9 different players earning their spot into the Provincials. They made it which puts them back on level with every other team there.
No one can predict the future and who knows how the Indians will fare in their next two tournaments. There are many outstanding teams out there and only one can win. But one thing that we can predict is that this TEAM of 13 players will always play hard for each other, will never give up, and will compete to their highest level everytime the ball is pitched.