Season set to prepare the junior club for provincials and hopefully Canadians
July 2, 2022
By Rob J. Ross
ST. THOMAS - It has been five years since the St. Thomas Tomcats have been at the Canadian 22U men's baseball championship.
That season, in 2017, the Tomcats brought home a bronze medal, from the tournament played in Gatineau, Quebec and Ottawa.
A year later, the Tomcats hosted the National event, but were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Those years may seem a distant memory, thanks to the COVID pandemic wiping out the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Now the Tomcats are back at Emslie field, competing in the Junior Intercounty League and preparing for the upcoming provincial Eliminations, with an eye on Canadians.
"I see a lot of potential in this group," Tomcats manager Arizona Phoenix said. "It's been difficult for everybody with that two year lull. Even though we had a season last year, it was a partial season. Not everybody was here. It's been good having more guys out and being able to get our work in. Our whole coaching staff is confident in this group."
The goals are high, but the Tomcats are one of the premier junior clubs in the province.
"We want to win a National championship and I think with this group that's definitely possible," said Phoenix. "Obviously the Eliminations is first and that's what we've been gearing up for all year. Everything we do is preparing for Eliminations. The way we practice. The way we play. The pitching rotation that we set. Everything to expose us and get us ready for what that environment is like."
The Tomcats are loaded with veteran experience, from pitcher Connor Ambrogio, outfielder Alex Liem and infielder Alex Pettipiece, all from Dorchester, to outfielder Brendan Johnston, playing for his hometown team, outfielder Will Pollard, infielder Danny Battel and infielder Alex Fishback, of Tillsonburg.
"We have quite a few senior guys, which is good. They know what it takes to win at this level," said Phoenix. "Most of the guys have been with us since the start.
It's their fourth year with the program."
St. Thomas is hovering around the .500 mark overall, including league, exhibition and tournament games.
"We were off to a little bit of a rough start. We still had some guys away at school. We were short staffed at the very start," said Phoenix. "Right now, we still have a lot work to do to be where we want to get. But we're on pace to get there. Our at bats are starting to get a lot better. Our pitching staff is throwing a lot more strikes and our fielders are starting to come around. Guys are starting to find a home."
The key will be developing conformity in their game, every time the Tomcats run out on to the field.
"At times we play a little immature," said Phoenix. "We know we have the talent. We need more consistency, especially defensively and we're starting to see that. We need to be bringing that A game to field every single day."
Playing against older competition in two senior tournaments is designed to strengthen the team.
St. Thomas was at Vaughan, June 10-12 and the Lakeside Tigers Invitational, June 25-15, with their three games all played at Emslie. The Tomcats were 1-2, on both weekends.
"It exposes us to a tournament environment and also exposes us to better competition," Phoenix said. "We get exposed to pitchers, who really know what they're doing. Hitters who really know what they're doing. I feel it makes us a better team all around. It prepares us for where we need to be."
The Tomcats include infielder Tyler Mosher, of Dutton, who was named to the All-Tournament team, at second base, for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) baseball championship. Mosher helped the University of Davenport win the GLIAC title for a second consecutive season.
The Eliminations, a 24-team tournament, is July 21-25, in Windsor. The Tomcats open against Leaside.
Two teams will represent Ontario at this year's 22U Canadian men's championship, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, August 4-7.
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