St. Thomas blanks Brantford, 2-0, in a semifinal that extended over two days
thanks to Mother Nature and now face Welland for the Junior Baseball title
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
By Rob J. Ross
ST. THOMAS - It took a couple of evenings, but the St. Thomas Tomcats have advanced to the Junior Intercounty Baseball final.
St. Thomas held their 2-0 advantage, to shutout the Brantford Jr. Red Sox, in their semifinal, at Emslie Field.
The Tomcats were leading in the top of the fourth inning on Monday night, before rain forced the game to be completed Tuesday.
The Tomcats, 8-3, during the season, face the Welland Jr. Jackfish (6-4), in the best of three game final, starting Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Emslie Field. Game two will be Saturday in Welland, at 1 p.m. and game three, if necessary, back at Emslie, on Sunday, 1 p.m.
When the skies opened up on Monday, Brantford had runners on first and second base with one out and two strikes on their batter at the plate.
That's the scenario the Tomcats faced when play resumed 24 hours later.
Pitcher Ben Hubert threw a strike to finish the batter and then got Tomcats out of the inning with another strikeout.
"We had Hubert available and he's been our best pitcher all year. The plan was to go two and two thirds with him. We knew he could get the strikeout," Tomcats coach Paul Pettipiece said. "The very first pitch they stole third, which was a big play for them. Put runners at first and third. If their kid could have put the bat on the ball there and made it 2-1, it changes the whole dynamic of the game."
Instead it remained 2-0 St. Thomas.
Neither team mustered much offence over the final three innings. Tomcat Riley Garinger had the only hit over the second half of the game, a two out single in the fifth inning that moved Alex Pettipiece to third base.
"It's hard to come into a game that's already been played half way through and be ready to go," Tomcats' catcher Dylan Howard said. "I think that might have been a reason why. That's why we had to be sharp defensively."
Howard was the razor's edge, throwing out two base runners, one at second base on an attempted steal in the sixth inning and the other at first base during an bunt attempt in the seventh and final inning.
"Strike him out, throw him out, to end the inning was definitely big. I had a feeling he was going that pitch, so I had a good jump on it," Howard said. "I know when people are bunting to always check the base runners. If they (batters) miss that's a big time when the runners get off the base a lot. That's exactly what happened there. I checked second first to get the lead runner, but we didn't have a guy on second base to throw it too. So then I checked first and luckily our second baseman (Alex Fishback) was there covering for the bunt. So I was able to throw him out there."
A walk and a hit batsman had the Red Sox threatening with runners on first and second base with no one out, before Howard picked one base runner off.
That seemed to kill the Brantford momentum, as the next batter popped up, followed by a ground out to end the game.
Humid conditions hampered the players on day two, certainly while at the plate. At least three batters had their bats get away from them while swinging.
"Maybe because it was a tough sky, neither team was hitting the ball tonight," coach Pettipiece said. "Guys were throwing bats and when the guys where out (in the field), grips on the ball were difficult. The pitchers had trouble getting their curve balls going too, just because of so much moisture in the air."
All of the scoring came in the second inning, on a wild pitch and a RBI single from Will Pollard.
Jeff Hare walked once and singled. Alex Pettipiece reached base twice on errors. Alex Liem and Will Martini scored the runs.
Pitcher Brett Reid earned the save recording the three outs in the seventh inning, after hitting the first batter faced.
Hubert, Reid and Connor Ambrogio, who pitched all innings on Monday, combined to allow zero runs, five hits and four walks, while striking out nine batters.
"We trust our defense and we trust our pitching," said Howard. "We come up clutch with our hitting when we need too."
During the regular season, St. Thomas and Welland saw each other on two occasions, both times for double-headers. Welland won the two games that counted towards the standings, while St. Thomas took the two exhibition games.
"They're a really good team. Welland has a really speedy guy that I have to
watch out for. I'll keep my eyes on him," Howard said. "It seemed that when we
played Welland we didn't have our best start and they jumped on us right away.
Once we got going, we picked it up for the second game. We have to jump on them
right away (in the final).
Howard, a London native who played youth ball with North London and the Ontario Nationals, will head to Western Nebraska, this Monday for his sophomore season.
"A good fresh start for me," said Howard, said of his transfer to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region nine school in Scott's Bluff, Nebraska. "They (Nebraska) won their region last year so I'm going to a good team. I'm excited for that."
The business major had his freshman season at Frank Phillips College, a NJCAA Region five school, in Borger, Texas.
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