The B.C. Senior Men’s baseball championship final between the Kamloops Sun Devils and the Langley Blaze on Monday was a thrilling combination of ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’, a heated battle combined with a long, challenging journey, in what was an epic conclusion to the provincial tournament at Butler Park.
The Kamloops Sun Devils would emerge from the glowing twilight dust of a five-hour long, 15 inning marathon with the Langley Blaze with a 5-4 victory to win the Senior Men’s provincial title, and advance to the Canadian championship.
“We never (played) this many innings for this magnitude that I can remember,” said Sun Devils coach Ray Chadwick. “I got a bunch of kids that have a lot of heart, as you can see. We got down and we kept battling, kept battling – that’s a lot of heart.”
Tied 4-4 after the regulation-game seven innings, the team’s would play another scoreless eight innings, before Adam Halland’s single over short in the bottom of the 15th inning brought home Luc Simpson to end the match.
Simpson, the tournament MVP, led off with a single up the middle, and advanced to second on a Yoshi Nakamara bunt. A well-executed hit-and-run by Blayne Halland put Simpson on third to set up the final showdown between Blaze’s PWB MVP pitcher Jesse Peters and Adam Halland. The Kamloops short stop would then line a two out, 1-1 pitch into shallow left to score Simpson and end the game.
“We missed some chances and we didn’t execute a couple times, but we got it done eventually.”
It was a fitting end to the championship that provided excitement from start to finish. The Kamloops team, made up of a generous portion of the Thompson Rivers University baseball team that finished second in the nation this year, also fielded Trail natives Pat Brown and Cam Strachan.
“Pat was hurt the whole time but he still gives 110 per cent, and Strach has been hurt, but a couple of great kids. I gotta get more Trail guys,” said Chadwick.
Brown and Stachan started the final game against Langley with Brown at second base and Strachan as the designated hitter.
“It feels great,” said Brown after the win. “We came shy the last couple of years to the exact same team. It went to game two and to end like that, in 15 innings, it is just unreal to end on a walk off hit, you just can’t explain how it feels.”
For Strachan defeating their historic nemesis at home made it even better.
“It is definitely sweeter at home, in front of your hometown crowd,” said Strachan. “We grew up playing here so winning the B.C. Championship at home is a pretty big thing for me.”
The Sun Devils and the Blaze went undefeated through the round robin, but Kamloops would beat the 2013 champions 3-2 in the first playoff game Sunday to gain the winner’s position in the double-knock out. It is the third year in a row the teams have met in the provincial final. In last year’s championship game in Prince George it was the Sun Devils who had to beat the Blaze twice in the final and after defeating them in the first game 4-3, would eventually lose the second match 8-5 to Langley.
Langley began its play at 8 a.m. Monday morning, beating Coquitlam 4-2 before taking the first tilt against Kamloops in a 1-0 seventh-inning victory.
In the second and deciding match, the teams were tied 3-3 through three innings and it would stay that way until Langley took a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh and looked poised to win. However, the Sun Devils were able to manufacture the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Evan Douglas to deep centrefield that would plate Brown from third sending it to extra innings.