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Astros SMMFL 2023 champions

Astros capture first league crown


 Thirlwall delivers big hit as Glencoe holds off St. Thomas Storm, 6-5,

 in game five of the South Middlesex Men's Fastball League final


 October 7, 2023



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By Rob J. Ross 

FINGAL, Ont. - The Glencoe Astros have their first South Middlesex Men's Fastball League championship.

In the best game of the final, the Astros held off the St. Thomas Storm, 6-5, to capture the championship series, three games to two.

Matt Thirlwall broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the fifth inning with a two-run triple, before scoring the eventual winning run on a RBI single by Adam Fletcher.

"It's good to step up to the plate and contribute to the team," Thirlwall said. "I was just trying to find the right pitch. I was down in the count and I just came through at the end. It's my first win, so it feels good."

Astros' pitcher Taylor DeGraw, who missed game four with a hand injury from being hit by a ball late in game three, struck out eight batters, four to close innings.

"This is awesome. A lot of work went into this. It took a little bit and the hand is sore, but it feels nice to be out here," DeGraw said. "It's a team effort. We made the plays behind me and we had lots of big hits. Matt off of the bench. That was huge for us. We started off with a lead and kept the lead. It's easier to pitch when you're ahead."

The Storm made it 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth with a Brady Stafford RBI double.

In the bottom of the seventh, Mitch Roy made it 6-5, with a solo shot to centre field.

With two out, Paul Grasby walked, bringing up Jason Dawdy who belted out a rocket, but right to Astros' shortstop Steve Lyons.

"To be right there at the end. Nothing to be ashamed of. I'm proud of our guys," Storm manager Tom Edie said. "We were one run shy and a laser got hit right at the end there. That could have been the difference. It's going to the gap if it was over his head."

The skip of the veteran squad applauded the Astros' on their first ever league title.

"They played well all year long and played well this whole series. One through nine, that's a tough lineup over there," Edie said. "They got one hit from a kid that doesn't play that often. Good for Matt. Good for Taylor DeGraw for gutting it out after his hand injury. He told me not to squeeze too hard in the handshake. He gutted it out and did a hell of a job."

The Astros out hit the Storm 12 to nine.

"This was intense, every pitch. No easy outs. That's want you want. We both gave the fans a show," said DeGraw, who wasn't thinking about his hand. "It's a little sore, but this time of year you power through. Now I've lots of time to rest."

Glencoe opened the championship series winning games one and two, 13-7 and 14-0. St. Thomas responded by taking games three and four, 7-6 and 14-8.

"There's no quit in our guys," Edie said about being down two games to none. "We have too many veterans who know it's one pitch at a time and we're never done until the last at bat. Our last at bat was hit on a rope."

The Storm did strand four runners in scoring position, all starting with one out.

"We just didn't execute," Edie said. "Fighting from behind is never easy, especially when you have DeGraw throwing and all the hitters they've got in their line-up. You have tip the hat to them. They made the plays when they had to and got the hits they needed."

Fletcher, who led off the game with a solo home run, finished three-for-five. Cole Pavey batted three-for-four, including a RBI triple.

Stafford finished with a pair of RBI doubles. Jeff Ingram had a triple and RBI double and Mark Coleman was two-for-four.

Dan Beecroft, in relief of starter Ben Hodgins, held the Astros to one walk, while striking out three over his two and one-third innings.

St. Thomas finished first in the standings at 17-3 and swept both their quarterfinal and semifinal series.

"We had some success. We had a pretty good tournament at Chepstow against some superior competition," Edie said. "We'll come back another year older and our younger guys another year into their prime hopefully."

For the Astros, the title victory gives several players something they've been missing in a community they call home.

"There are 10 or 11 guys who have never won, so that's huge for them," DeGraw said. "Every player but one, grew up playing minor ball in Glencoe. This is really a hometown team. We all went our different paths and now we've all come back and it's nice to win together with friends and people from your town."


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