Grand Forks International: Orioles cash in

The Orioles won two of three in the round robin to guarantee them a spot in the do-or-die cash go-round.

While the Lewiston Paffile Truckers won their fourth Grand Forks International baseball tournament title in five years – Trail’s AM Ford Orioles put in an impressive performance making the money round and narrowly missing a semifinal bid.

The Orioles won two of three in the round robin to guarantee them a spot in the do-or-die cash go-round, and were one run away from making it further than they have since 2003.

“The caliber of the tournament this year was higher than the last couple of years,” said Oriole player/coach Jim Maniago. “There was no easy games, but we played well.”

The 2-1 Team Canada met Trail in the first match of the money round in what turned out to be a nail biter.

Canada’s Andrew Firth pounded a solo home run over the left field fence to break a 2-2 deadlock in the fourth inning and send them to a 3-2 victory.

Canada went up 2-0 in the top of the third inning, but the Orioles replied in the bottom half. Jesse Rypien reached base on an error, and Dustin Bissonette laid down a sac bunt to move him to second before Joey Underwood singled up the middle to put runners on first and third with one out. Kyle Mace then stepped up and slashed a double to centre, plating Rypien and Underwood to tie the game at two, before Firth’s heroics in the fourth.

“Basically we’re just a bunch of guys from Trail and we competed against some pretty high level teams and we had UBC (Canada) scared, they were pretty nervous that we were going to beat them, and we could have,” said Maniago.

Chris Kissock went the distance striking out 12 batters over nine innings, and giving up just one walk and seven hits. But the O’s bats couldn’t find the sweet spot as Canada’s tandem of Sean Callegari and closer Alex Graham shut them down, giving up just four hits in the game.

In the end, it was Lewiston who came out on top, beating Team Canada 3-1 in the title-game Monday.

“It was a phenomenal tournament,” Lewiston coach Jeremiah Robbins told the Grand Forks Gazette. “Being the new coach you get to hear all summer about the great experience up here and they didn’t lie, it’s beautiful place to play and to come in with a really new group of guys, a new head coach and to come out of this with the title, I’m very impressed with how the kids handled it.”

The Truckers swept through the money round with a 9-4 win over the Kamloops Sun Devils and a 6-2 victory over the Seattle Studs in the semi before besting Canada.

The Orioles had a great start to the tournament, downing the San Diego Stars 4-2 in the first match on Friday. Chris Florko went 2-for-2 at the plate with two RBIs, while Jordan Kissock was 2-for-3. Chris Kissock picked up the win, going eight-and one-third innings, striking out 10, with no walks and just seven hits. Aaron Cotter came on and struck out the final two batters for the save.

The O’s then faced a stingy Thurston Senators team and despite a good effort on the mound by Scott Rhynold and Jordan Kissock, the Senators Jo Jo Howie kept Trail batters off balance all night, as he gave up just two hits and struck out six while walking four over six-and two-thirds.

On Saturday, the O’s bounced back winning 6-3 over the North West Honkers. Cotter and Darrin Kissock teamed up for the win, as the O’s scored five runs in the final two innings to comeback from a 3-1 deficit.

In the top half of the eighth, after Jordan Kissock singled in a run, Darrin Kissock’s double to left cashed in two runs to give the O’s a 4-3 lead. The Orioles added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth to send them to the money round against Team Canada. Darrin Kissock went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs, while Joey Underwood was 3-for-5 at the plate, and Jordan Kissock 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

The GFI was a little richer this year, handing out $54,000 in prize money. The O’s banked a tidy $3,000 for its fifth-place finish, while the champion Truckers went home $20,000 richer.