Alex Springer tosses a three-hitter as St. Thomas edges Guelph, 3-2, in the final
for the baseball club's first Ontario title since 2011 finishing with a 6-1 record
July 19, 2023
By Rob J. Ross
DORCHESTER, Ont. - Alex Springer had no problem being a starting pitcher on this day.
Usually the St. Thomas Tomcats' closer, Springer stepped on the hill for the biggest game of the season thus far and led the Tabbies to an Ontario U22 men's baseball title, edging the Guelph Silvercreeks, 3-2, in the Elimination final Sunday at the Field of Dreams.
Both teams move on to the Canadian 22U men's championship, August 3-6, in Stonewell, Manitoba.
"I'm stroked. I've always wanted to go to Winnipeg," Springer said.
Springer went six complete innings, allowing just a pair of walks until the sixth. Ben Hubert closed out the seventh inning.
"Normally a closer but the boys needed some work done. I like to thank my catcher (Brad Verhoeven) and my defenders. I didn't have my best stuff today, but we got the job done," said Springer. "I treated it as I was closing, just one inning at a time and try to pitch my game and try to get outs. We got up early so all of the pressure was off me and the boys were rolling."
The 'Cats gave Springer an early lead, scoring twice in the first inning. Verhoeven singled in Ben Morrison who led off with a double and then Verhoeven scored on Noah Williams' double.
An inning later, the Tomcats added their third run with back to back doubles by Williams and Noah Grant.
Defence shined for the Tabbies from Verhoeven throwing out a runner attempting to steal second base, to Grant making a four big catches in center field.
"Brad's put out at second in the third inning was huge. Grant had a tough sky today, but he made some big catches," Springer said. "The boys just made plays behind me and I really appreciate it."
While the Silvercreeks' outfielders lost sight of a few fly balls in the early innings, Grant seemingly has no issues making a catch against a sky that could mask the ball.
"It was tough," said Grant, who hails from Thorndale. "But everyone was yelling out, letting me know where the ball was to get under it."
Guelph made the Tomcats sweat in the sixth scoring, scoring twice and then had the tying on third base in the seventh inning.
After allowing a lead-off walk to open the seventh, Hubert shut down the Silvercreeks.
"We've played Guelph a few times this year and it's always a battle," Tomcats' manager Arizona Phoenix said. "Our pitching staff did a great job and we got some runs when we needed them. We got the momentum when we scored first and I knew if we got the lead we wouldn't give it up with our pitchers."
Phoenix was confident in giving Springer the ball for the biggest game of the year.
"We haven't used him in like a long inning role, so he's thrown more pitches than he has typically. He can start. He's good enough too, but we've used him in that role (closer) because it best suits our team. He's a team guy who is willing to do whatever it takes for us to win."
The two runs were the first allowed this season by Springer, who has also thrown for the London Majors of the senior Intercounty Baseball League.
St. Thomas finishes 6-1, the only loss to Guelph, 5-1, on Sunday morning, a win that kept the Silvercreeks alive in the 16-team tournament. The Tomcats stayed alive knocking out Newmarket, the 2022 Canadian champions, 6-0, Sunday night.
"The field in Ontario is so strong, that sometimes this tournament is harder to win than the National tournament," Phoenix said. "This tournament is an absolutely gauntlet. You play seven games and we won six of them over four days. It's not easy. There are no easy games. Everybody you play has high level college baseball players. Winning this tournament is special."
Tomcats' shortstop Tyler Mosher has won back to back Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) titles with the Davenport Panthers in 2021-22, but this will be the first trip to Canadians for the 21-year old from Dutton.
"I wouldn't want to do it with another group of guys. It's been a fun year and I couldn't thank them enough for everything that we've accomplished," said Mosher. "It's definitely tough on the body playing seven games over a weekend, but when you get a chance like this, you power through and do what you can to win."
It is the first Elimination championship for the Tomcats since 2011 and first title at the AAA level. The Tabbies made the final three years running from 2015 to 2017, going on to win bronze at Canadians, in 2015 and 2017.St. Thomas hosted Canadians in 2018, when the Tomcats made the quarterfinals.
Charles Bowman led the Tomcats with a .412 batting average from the nine spot and he stole three bases. Lead-off man Ben Morrison hit .380, scored five runs, walked four times and swiped three bases. Verhoeven hit .350, scored six times and was hit by a pitch twice. Mosher walked to first base six times and had six RBIs, four from his walk-off grand slam in the Tomcats' opening game 6-2 win against Oshawa. Williams finished with seven RBIs and four doubles.
Mosher, Grant and Soloman Harwood, hit home runs in the tournament.
In preparation for this year's Canadians, the Tomcats will of course practice, but are also hosting three Junior Intercounty League games at Emslie Field, Saturday, July 22, against Hamilton (1 p.m.) and a noon double-header with Waterloo, Sunday.
The Tomcats are opting out of this year's Junior IBL playoffs, to focus on Canadians.
Stonewell, Manitoba, known for its limestone quarries, is 25 kilometers north of Winnipeg. Fines Field and Quarry Park will host 22 games over four days.
In support of the Tomcats going to compete with the best in the nation, the team set up a GoFundMe page - Tomcats
More images on Instagram - hometownplay