The Northeast 49ers won decisively and for the second year in a row as they bombed the Penticton Somba Tigers 13-3 to claim the Trail Jays Safety/Net Security baseball tournament on Monday.
The 49ers rolled to three straight wins before dropping a 5-4 decision to the Regina Mets Sunday to take top seed in the tournament. They opened the tournament with a 14-2 shellacking of the St. Albert Cardinals Friday, and followed that up with 8-4 and 5-2 wins against Penticton and Trail respectively.
“We didn’t have our full squad this weekend,” said 49ers coach Nick Shuerman. “We were actually missing our three hole, four hole and six hole guys . . . so we scrapped out. We had guys coming and going, we’re nursing some injuries, so I’m pretty happy overall – a pretty gutsy effort from our guys.”
The Jays meanwhile opened the tournament in impressive fashion with an 11-3 victory over the Regina Mets. But consecutive losses to the Niners and the Cardinals, 9-3, left the Jays out of the championship game for the first time in three years.
The tournament played under threatening skies for most of the weekend, yet it wasn’t until Sunday night that torrential rains washed out the two late games at Butler Park, including the Jays match with Spokane North Stars.
Due to the rainout, Monday’s line up was shortened to the top two seeds playing at 11 a.m. for the title, and the Jays making up the game against the North Stars at 2 p.m.
In the championship match, the Tigers squandered 2-0 and 3-2 leads early as the Colville team capitalized on two Tiger errors in the bottom of second to score six runs and go up 8-3.
49er pitcher Austin Hegney then settled down, declawing the Tigers attack and allowing only three hits over the next three innings while striking out five.
The defending champions are a much-improved team from last season, and the Safety Net Security title marks the third tournament the northeast Washington team has won this year. Last season, in their first year as a program, the team went 14-32. The Niners have already tallied 30 wins this year against only seven losses.
“I had 10 guys come back from last year and we added about four or five new guys and they’ve bought into my system and we work hard, and things are going well for us,” said Shuerman.
The team executed brilliantly, exploiting its opportunities, as Nick Naccarato swiped two bases and Ryan Leone another in the first two innings to give the Niners an early edge.
“We do the small ball game pretty well. We bunt and run, we hit and run, we’re 90 for 95 on stolen bases this year, we have a ton of team speed and it’s a fun group of kids. They are playing hard and doing it right.”
The Niners ended the game on the 10-run rule in the fifth inning. Hard-hitting second baseman Bryce Wetherell led off with a double and after Derek Smith bunted to move him along, an error and a walk loaded the bases. A sacrifice fly scored Wetherell, and a single by Nick Hansen filled the sacks again. Sam Sprague stepped up and ripped a double to deep centre clearing the bases and ending the game.