The St. Thomas team stacked with pitchers is aiming for Baseball Ontario's
Junior (21U) Elimination championship and a berth at Canadians
Thursday, August 1, 2019
ST. THOMAS - The St. Thomas Tomcats are armed and dangerous and the senior players feel this year's team is the deepest of the past three seasons.
Depth in terms of pitching, a key component every season in winning Baseball Ontario's Junior Elimination tournament, that begins Friday in Oshawa. Twenty three teams will be battling to advance to the final and a berth at Canadians, August 15-18th, in Gatineau, Quebec.
"We need to play clean defensively. Our pitching has been really good. We've been having really good at bats," Tomcats' manager Arizona Phoenix. "I'm definitely excited because we have a really special group here. It's cool to see that all of the work we're putting in is for this goal, going to Eliminations and succeeding. We're excited to get to go and showcase these guys' skills and hopefully have a really good weekend."
Catcher Matt Brooks, of St. Thomas, pitcher Alex Lamont, third baseman Daniel Lichty and first baseman Kevin Bowden, are aiming to advance the Tomcats to a third consecutive appearance at Nationals.
The four veteran players helped St. Thomas win bronze in 2017.
"It's all coming together and we've been playing as a team. We've a good shot going into it," Bowden said. "Being your third year, you know what to expect going into these types of tournaments. It is high pace and a lot of games in a short amount of time. You have to come prepared and ready to win."
It takes seven to nine games to win one of the toughest championships in Canada, highlighting the need for pitching. The Tomcats open with the High Park Braves, Friday, at 11:30 a.m. The final is on Monday, with both teams earning a berth to Canadians.
The Tomcats enter the tournament ranked third, behind the Windsor Selects and Kitchener Panthers.
Lamont, along with Travis Keys and St. Thomas boys Michael Mommersteeg and Zach Banks, lead a stacked pitching staff. All but about six players on the roster are able to toss from the mound.
"We have a lot of good pitchers. We're deep. We have five or six good starters," said Lamont.
The Tomcats' offence has the ability to help take the pressure off of their pitchers, but the bats need to producing the entire game.
"A big thing for us that we've seen throughout the year, once we get a lead on teams we take the foot off of the pedal and that can come back to bite us," said Brooks. "When we do get in a situation where we're beating a team, like have a five run lead, we have to stay on them. If we can put up a mercy and get out of a game, in five innings rather than seven, that'll save us a pitcher for another game. With pitch counts, you have to save your arms as much as you can."
The Tomcats spent the season playing in the Southwestern Senior League (currently fourth place with an 8-9 record) and three senior tournaments (co-winners at Brampton), in preparation for the Tomcats' ultimate goal every year.
"One of the big things from those tournaments is that it's a process. It's a lot of games, so you can't get too up or too down, because regardless of the result, you have another game waiting for you," Phoenix said. "It's also the uncertainty of the tournaments. We're used to in league, showing up at 530 p.m. for a 730 game. We have a routine that we go through and nothing changes. But at tournaments, if it rains, or a game goes into extra innings, you can be delayed. So it's staying mentally ready and being able to get ready really quick."
The Tomcats are full of players with success at various levels. Several are graduates of the London Badgers program that won the 18U National title in 2017 and 2018. The Tomcats will bring four players from this year's Badgers 18U team, catcher Brad Verhoeven and pitchers Mason Newell, Jaryd Lund and Ben Hubert.
"We have a team full of guys who are leaders. All of these guys have won at some level. They're pretty accomplished so they won't be surprised by anything." Phoenix said.
Six Tomcats (Brooks, Mommer, Banks, Brendan Johnston, Josh Hare, Justin McDonald) are playing for their homwtown team and four are Dorchester natives (Alex Pettipiece, Alex Liem, Jackson Van Bakel, Connor Ambrogio).
"I grew up watching the Tomcats and seeing the success the organization has had. It's been really rewarding and cool to be a part of it once I got to the junior age," Brooks said. "We got to play a lot of exhibition games against very good ball teams this year. We've seen the field. There is a good amount of solid contenders. It'll be a challenging weekend, but we have the team that can do it."