The AM Ford Trail Orioles made a dramatic run at the playoffs at the B.C. Bid Group Senior Men’s Baseball championship in Prince George on the weekend, but in the end they simply ran out of gas.
The Orioles won a dramatic come-from-behind match against the Kelowna Jays 10-9 Sunday to lift them into the playoffs – only to fall in the elimination match against a tough Kamloops Sun Devil team 16-1.
“The frustrating thing is that we had a chance, and if we had more arms, I think we really had a chance to take a run at it, but the guys we had played well and we are pretty happy,” said player/manager Jim Maniago.
The O’s, along with four other teams, finished with identical 2-1 records, and eliminated last year’s champion the Victoria Merchants, 1-2, as well as powerhouse Burnaby Bulldogs, 1-2.
Runs for and against decided the top five teams, with the Nanaimo Coalminers earning the top seed by virtue of wins over Langley Blaze 8-0 and Kelowna 13-4, giving them a bye to Monday’s semifinal.
The Kamloops Sun Devils were second, Langley Blaze third and the Prince George Grays squeaked in at fourth, as both the O’s and the Grays allowed 13 runs over three games but the Grays scored 16 while the Orioles only crossed the plate 14 times to relegate the O’s as the final seed, and set up an elimination game against the Sun Devils.
“In the years since we’ve gone to this system, I don’t know if that’s ever happened. Everyone is so equal, everyone was beating everyone else,” said Maniago.
The Orioles opened the provincials Saturday with a 4-2 win over Nanaimo, before being shutout by Langley 7-0.
Connor and Kellen Jones were indeed at the tournament, and proved vital to the team’s success in its two victories.
Kellen went the distance, picking up the win against the Coalminers, allowing two runs on seven hits and striking out seven. He also went 2-for-3 at the plate to help his cause, as did Garrett Kucher and Brady Glover.
“Kellen was unreal that game,” said Maniago. “Nanaimo is a really good team and it wouldn’t surprise me if they end up winning.”
In the Orioles’ 10-9 win over the Jays, Connor made a great leaping catch in the top of the seventh inning to douse a Kelowna rally and preserve the narrow victory.
With runners on first and third and two out, the Jays’ batter slashed a drive at Jones who dove and snagged the liner to end the threat.
The Jays had opened up a 3-0 advantage in the first inning but the Orioles responded with five runs of their own in the bottom half for a 5-3 lead.
Trail scored at least one run in the first five innings opening up an 8-3 advantage.
But the Jays rebounded with six runs in the top of the fourth inning to take a 9-8 lead.
Trail tied the game in the bottom half of four off reliever Mike Monster who owned Trail earlier in the year, and Jim Maniago drove in the winning run in the fifth.
Kellen relieved starter Kyle Paulson in the fifth inning, shutting the Jays offence down with three innings of no-hit ball for the win, his second of the tournament.
Connor also went 2-for-2, cranking out two doubles and knocking in two runs while Maniago was 3-for-4 with an RBI.
A tired and shorthanded Orioles squad then had to turn around and play Kamloops immediately following the Kelowna game.
Kamloops would unceremoniously end the O’s run at the provincial title in the opening playoff game by beating Trail 16-1 Sunday night.
“We had nothing left. As it turned out we had to use Kellen to finish the Kelowna game to get us in, and now he’s going out for his third outing, which is quite a bit to ask.”
Trail was without pitching ace Scott Rhynold and key position players Kyle and Josh Mace, who are expected to return to the lineup for Western Championships in Winnipeg Aug. 23-26.
The final score was unavailable at press time.