JERSEY BOUND! West Coast Defeats North Langley & Delta Orange in 2 Tightly Contested Ballgames on Championship Sunday; Cardinals are your 2018 BC (Minor) Baseball 15U AAA Provincial Champions!
Posted August 8, 2018
The West Coast Cardinals got off to a hot start in round robin play going 3-0 in their first three games (Delta Blue, Ridge Meadows and Kamloops). Before the start of day 3 of the provincials, the Cardinals had already clinched first in their pool and rested a number of their regulars on Saturday vs. Cloverdale (who was still in the hunt), West Coast went on to lose that contest 3-0 in a short 1hr45min. Ridge Meadows clinched the second seed in West Coast's pool by a slim one run (runs against per defensive inning) over Delta Blue in a three way tiebreaker. Meanwhile, Delta Orange and North Langley finished 1st and 2nd respectively in their pool sending the top 2 seeds in each tier (during regular season) to Sunday's final four crossover.
NorthLangley 2 CARDINALS 3 (Semi Final)
Max Yuen took control of the mound for the Cards, looking to avenge last season’s provincial semi-final loss to the Delta Tigers. He was doing well early on by working down in the zone and inducing groundball outs, getting the first two North Langley batters, but his pitching counterpart Tyler Wright was able to reach base with two out by bouncing one over the head of Cards’ first baseman McRae. It was an unfortunate hop on a field known for such hops – nothing you can do but pray for no broken noses. It amounted to nothing but a few extra pitches for Yuen, as he’d get the Trappers’ big bat Gibson to ground out for the final out of the inning, McRae shaking off the previous play by coming up with a clutch pick of the throw over from shortstop. The bottom of the 1st began with a huge scare, then ended with an exclamation point. Hendriks led off the inning by driving one that had triple written all over it deep to the right centre gap, but as he rounded first base he tripped and fell, re-opening a cut on his leg that he got from sliding two days prior. He got up and hobbled into second base, settling for a lead-off double. The game was then halted for about 10 minutes while Hendriks’ leg was thoroughly bandaged up – he would stay in the game and didn’t look worse for wear at all, leading the offensive charge with a 3-4 day at the plate. The Cards loaded the bases with one out as Tong worked a walk and Lefebvre cued one off the end of his bat and somehow found a hole on the right side of the infield. Yuen couldn’t help his own cause, striking out on three pitches for the second out, but his buddy Suzuki picked him up big time. On a 1-2 pitch, the speedy lefty dropped the head of the bat on a curveball low and inside and watched as the ball sailed down the right field line, landing well fair and rolling all the way to the fence 320 ft away. The bases-clearing triple propelled the Cards to a 3-0 lead after the first, and it turned out to be the only run-producing hit of the game for the Cards. Watch the video of that hit by clicking HERE.
North Langley looked to respond quickly in the top of the 2nd, McCaffrey leading off the inning with an absolute bomb to straight-away centre field that would have easily been over the fence at your typical Bantam diamond. While it was very deep, it was also in the air forever, giving centre-fielder Tong a sliver of hope to hustle back and make the catch, but it just tipped off his glove and fell for a triple. Now it was time for Yuen to buckle down on the bump to strand McCaffrey at third and maintain the Cards’ 3-run lead. He’d make it look easy as he so often does, striking out the Trappers’ 6-7-8 batters on just 11 pitches to nullify the leadoff triple. The Trappers would move on quickly from that missed opportunity, cutting their deficit to just one run in the 3rd. With two out and nobody on, #2 hitter Peters sent a flyball to centre that was poorly judged and dropped in for a double. Two hits and a pass ball later, it was now 3-2 and the tying run was just 80 ft away. Yuen would sit down #6 hitter Edwards on three pitches for the second time in a row to escape the inning with the lead intact. There wasn’t much offense from either team over the rest of this tight semi-final. The Cards managed to get four runners in scoring position over their final four at-bats, but couldn’t score any of them to provide that extra cushion for their pitchers. Yuen gave way to Duncan-Wu after reaching his pitch count max at the 5 2/3 innings mark. Duncan-Wu struck out the only batter he faced on 3 pitches, then entrusted the ball to Suzuki to nab his 7th save of the season. North Langley could only muster a one-out walk against Suzuki in the top of the 7th, as the Cards advanced to the provincial final with a 3-2 victory over the Trappers. - JO
DeltaOrange 2 CARDINALS 5 (Championship Final)
CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE FINAL INNING (CONDENSED) UNFOLD!
It was the provincial championship final that everyone was hopeful for, since February no upsets, no if ands or buts, just the top two teams in BC Minor’s 15U (Bantam) AAA league squaring off in an all out tilt for the banner and trip to New Jersey. The two coaches with the longest tenure in the Bantam AAA league, friends off the field but competitive sharks on the field…both their well-respected clubs going toe-to-toe in a no doubt emotional game for the ages. Frick in an act of mind games warmed up both Thomas and Warkentin in the ‘pen prior to the ballgame but as Yam has learned mind games weren’t going to work anymore, Frick ended up going with the latter, his horse all year Boston Warkentin. There was no surprise or mind games from Yam as he sent his best hitter, best baserunner, best fielder and best pitcher to toe the rubber, the kid from the Netherlands who was 2-0 against the aforementioned Frick’s Tigers in Cody Hendriks.
The pre-game speech from coach O’Krafka was short and simple, “tune out the sound of Delta and their coach and focus on what you can control”. With that, coach Miles came back from the plate meeting and sent the boys wearing their varsity whites off to the field for the top of the 1st in what was the loudest “CARDS ON 3!” this year.
The first inning couldn’t have gone worse for West Coast as Hendriks shook off the 2-2 fastball and went on to throw his first curveball of the day which plunked the first batter of the game in Noah Thomas in his side giving Delta their first baserunner of the game. Hendriks looked to have caught Thomas napping at 1st as Hendriks threw over to first before unloading the 2nd pitch to Delta’s 2-batter; it was almost as clear as daylight that Hendriks got Thomas at 1st on the pickoff but the umpire who had a great view of it called him safe. The very next pitch to Spencer was lined to to the Cardinal first baseman who could only watch as the scorching liner went off the tip of his glove and into right field putting runners at 2nd and 3rd to begin the inning. Three events that easily could have prevented all this now gone Delta’s way and their advantage, Frick and his Tigers with the upper hand with 2 runners in scoring position with none out. Hendriks would strike 3-batter McCarthy out but on the throw to 1st, Thomas caught Cardinal first baseman napping and broke for home and slid in safely giving Delta the 1-0 lead. Spencer would score later in that inning on a pass ball putting the Tigers up 2 before their horse Warkentin had even thrown a pitch.
West Coast coaches urged their players to forget about what just happened and let them know that they still had 21 outs to work with and get back into this ballgame. The roller coaster of emotion continued as 21 outs quickly turned to 18. Although Hendriks got on with a hard infield single in the bottom of the 1st, just 2 pitches later the Tigers would roll a “taylor-made” 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and dispelling any momentum for the Cardinals.
The top of the 2nd saw Hendriks retire the Tiger’s order in order setting up the offensive 2nd for the Cardinals. With 1 out, Yuen drew a 5-pitch walk setting up the FIRST OF THREE critical plays that took place in this contest. Following the 5-pitch walk, Bach (Delta’s catcher) went out to calm Warkentin. Yam decided to counter-act Bach’s move by settling Warketin down with a first pitch hit-and-run. With Yam hoping that Warkentin would settle down after the mound visit, the play worked to perfection as Suzuki with Yuen taking off on the pitch lined the first pitch strike down the 3rd base line as the ball rolled past McNeil in LF to the corner. The plus runner in Yuen hustled all the way around the bases to pull the Cards within 1 as the Cardinal players, coaches and spectators got out of their seats acknowledging the massive RBI double from Suzuki, his 4th RBI today on Championship Sunday. Watch the excitement HERE. The aforementioned Suzuki would be stranded but Hendriks (starting pitcher) and West Coast were right back in the game down 1 after 2 innings of play.
We jump to the 4th where Hendriks seemed to have found a profound level of confidence on the mound striking out Bach, Cassie and McNeil. What was more impressive about that top half of the 4th was that #38 rocking the red stirrups with the navy and white trim was one strike away from an immaculate inning (9 pitches, 3 batters, 3 strikeouts). The aforementioned Hendriks was at 8 pitches 8 strikes and one strike away before uncorking a 208 mph fastball to the backstop. Nevertheless, Hendriks would strike McNeil out for the 11 pitch inning. The near immaculate inning seemed to have ignited the West Coast players as a pivotal offensive 4th saw the Cards come to life on the sticks.
One of West Coast’s three imports this year in Trevor Tong was leading off the bottom half of the 4th. The ex-Whalley Chief and Burnaby resident has had a monster year leading the team in OBP (in the .560s) while patrolling centerfield with confidence and leadership. This time it wasn’t about his OBP or defence, Tong got himself into a prime 2-1 count against Warkentin and drove the 4th pitch of the AB into the right-centre gap. Coach Ahn didn’t initially send Tong to 2nd off the bat but Tong who was sporting the WC high sock look aggressively made a turn and broke for 2nd sliding into 2 safely for a hustle double. Tong would get up, stand on 2nd base and yell toward his 3rd base dugout, “LET’S GO!” and “GREG POWER!” was all that came out of that 5’4 body for the next 30 seconds. Watch the leadoff double HERE. Lefebvre would also have an eventful at-bat as the Cardinal catcher pimped his walk before realizing that the count was full and not ball 4. It ended up working out better for the Cardinals as Lefebvre would line the next pitch back up the middle for a hard single putting runners on the corners with none out.
With Yam happy giving up the double play for a run, he opted to let Yuen do what he can with the runners not initiating anything on the corners. Yuen would hit a chopper towards Spencer at SS and the vet from Burnaby would prove that “speed kills” as he got down the line and narrowly beat out the throw from Spencer on the infield single. Tong read the chopper well and scored on the play, knotting things up at 2s and still runners at 1st and 2nd with none out. Suzuki who was looking to tack on more RBIs on what had already been a monster day; however, Delta would breathe a sigh of relief as Suzuki would smash the 2-0 count from Warkentin to CF, the hardest hit ball today unfortunately right at McCarthy in CF. The hit train continued as Waters would ground one into the 5-6 hole where Spencer made a great play to keep it in the infield but the bases were now loaded for Nagatomo at the plate.
Yam thought about a pinch hitter but knew he needed a ball in play more than anything so he decided to stick with the Cardinal second baseman Nagatomo who had struck out the 4th least amount of all players this year on West Coast. Nagatomo would fall behind 1-2 in the count to Warkentin, on the 4th pitch Nagatomo would hit a chopper to 3B which looked like a routine 5-2-3 double play considering Nagatomo’s speed. The Delta third baseman would short hop the throw forcing Bach’s back foot to come off the plate giving West Coast the lead. Lefebvre would score on the error as their were fist bumps, high fives, hugs and excitement everywhere. Nagatomo would gesture and yell towards his bench in a rare sight of emotion, Lefebvre would jump at Yam and those near the on-deck circle after being called safe. Watch it HERE! The Cards would strand the bases loaded with 1 out and would be unable to tack on any more insurance runs as the 4th inning ends with West Coast on top 3-2.
Hendriks was feeling even more confident in the 5th than the 4th inning as he was throwing harder and being nastier than ever on the mound. The strikeout totals continued to rise as Hendriks would collect 2 more strikeouts in the span of 8 pitches before going toe-to-toe against the potent leadoff bat of Noah Thomas. Hendriks seemed on top of the world now as he struck out Thomas on 3 pitches, the 3rd pitch being a filthy hook catching Delta’s leadoff hitter looking for Hendriks’ 11th K of the ballgame. The umpire rung the Delta hitter up as Hendriks smacked his glove in jubilation while running off the mound knowing his team was now just 6 outs away from a provincial banner. Watch the 11th K of the ballgame (6th K in a row) HERE.
The top of the 6th saw the SECOND OF THREE critical plays that contributed big time to the Cardinals win. A phenomenal play by the veteran shortstop Max Yuen, #11 would field the McCarthy chopper up the middle and fire over to 1 just barely beating McCarthy to the bag. Watch the highlight reel out HERE from Yuen. Hendriks would get Warkentin to groundout to Yuen, this time a much more routine play to end the inning. The Cardinals were now just 3 outs away from being crowned provincial champs.
The offensive 6th for the Cardinals saw Yuen get hit by the second offering from Warkentin. The “take and butt-shake” Warkentin felt the need to make sure Yuen was ok after hitting him with the curveball. After the giggles were over with, Warkentin got back to work now facing one his best friends Suzuki for the 3rd time, Suzuki would hit a slow chopper up the 1st base line beating it out with his blazing speed setting up runners at 1st and 2nd with none out. Two unproductive at-bats followed, leaving runners at 1st and 2nd with now 2 out. McRae would draw a crucial 4 pitch walk turning the lineup over for Rogers. Yam would go to his bench, giving Maunahan the opportunity with 2 outs. Frick would come out to the mound to discuss with Warkentin the scheduled batter and also pulled in (first relief pitcher) Noah Thomas in. Frick decided to stick with Warkentin to face Maunahan. QUE THE THIRD OF THREE CRITICAL PLAYS OF THE GAME. The fresh pinch hitting sub in Matthew Maunahan wasted no time busting that move by Frick as he lined the first pitch fastball by Warkentin up the middle scoring both runs with ease and padding the lead to 5-2. The huge 2 insurance runs with 2 outs got West Coast more excited than ever as they now had a bit of breathing room. Watch the massive 2 run single HERE. 5-2 Cards after 6 complete.
Hendriks tried to do everything he could to keep his pitch count down but a walk error and fielder’s choice put runners at 1st and 3rd and 1 out. Suddenly, the tying run was now coming up to the plate. With Hendriks at his pitch count limit of 95, Yam turned to another head of his three-headed monster in Taiki Suzuki to close this one out. Suzuki already had 4 RBIs to his credit today and was looking for his 2nd SV of Championship Sunday..something I doubt hasn’t been done in BC (Minor) Baseball’s history. Suzuki who was looking for his 8th SV this year (and 2nd today) seemed to have been too “jacked up” as the count to the batter Taiyo Boily went up to 3-0. Frick gave Boily the signature “TAKE 2” but Suzuki who did not seemed fazed came back at threw two strikes running it full then blew a high fastball past the swinging Boily for the 2nd out of the inning. Wilson (Delta’s 9-batter) was now up, Suzuki put one finger on the trigger 4 times, fastball ball, fastball called strike, fastball swinging strike and fastball swinging strike to end it! Watch the aftermath HERE! - LY
The Cardinals had one goal from the beginning of winter training and that was to halt the three-peat from Delta. Everyone all winter put in copious amounts of effort to get better and prepare for the 2018 season. The veterans Cody Hendriks (6 1/3IP 2R 0ER 2H 1BB 11K), Max Yuen (1/1 BB HBP at the plate with game-tying RBI and phenomenal job at SS) and Taiki Suzuki (4 RBIs on Championship Sunday and 2 SVs) were complete dudes all year while the coaching staff picked not just the best 14 players but took everything into account from personalities to families. In the end, the West Coast Cardinals exacted their revenge and ended a 2-year era with a provincial banner. Thanks to all players, parents, families and supporters of West Coast; we couldn’t have done it without you!