The AM Ford Trail Orioles didn’t disappoint as the team and organizers put on an amazing show for the hundreds of fans that packed Butler Park on the weekend.
The host team went 4 and 1 in the Western Canada Baseball Championships beating a powerful Manitoba side 1-0 Saturday and 4-3 in Sunday’s final to win the tournament.
The O’s pounded their way to a great start, after downing their B.C. rivals, the Vernon Diamondbacks, 12-4, Thursday, they followed up with an impressive 6-4 win over a scrappy Alberta side on Friday.
At 2 and 0, all they needed to do was beat Saskatchewan, Saturday, to guarantee a spot in the final. Earlier, Saskatchewan topped Alberta but blew a 7-3 lead to Manitoba Friday to lose 8-7. They needed to win their next two games against Trail then B.C. to advance to the final.
The Trail-Saskatchewan game was not a classic by any means but it was a thriller. Trail gave up three unearned runs in the fourth on three errors to spot the team from Marysburg to a 6-3 lead.
The O’s clawed back and almost tied the game in the seventh but unfortunate running errors cost them and the O’s would come up short.
“Even in the 6-5 loss, I mean we had a chance to win that game, even with the five errors,” said coach David Colquhoun.“We still didn’t really hit well and I thought with a couple of timely hits we probably wouldn’t have been in that situation in the last inning.”
Saskatchewan was then in the driver seat. All they had to do was beat the winless B.C. side and they and Manitoba would be in the final.
However, B.C. did the Orioles the ultimate favour by stunning Saskatchewan that afternoon 7-4.
The O’s could now guarantee themselves a spot in the final Sunday with a win over the Elmwood Giants from Manitoba Saturday night. A loss meant they were done and Saskatchewan would be in the final.
The Orioles sent out Coquitlam recruit Scott Rhynold against a hard-hitting Manitoba lineup that outscored their opponents 29 to 9 in three games.
Rhynold pitched a gem. He went the distance, striking out seven batters including the side in the second inning, while giving up only three hits and three walks in the 1-0 shutout.
Even at times when Manitoba threatened, Rhynold would come up with a clutch strike out or be bailed out by excellent defense. Whether it was a double play or put out at the plate, the O’s played clutch baseball.
The game remained deadlocked at zeroes until the fifth inning when Darrin Kissock stepped up with two men on and drove a pitch just out of reach of the second baseman. Pat Brown scored easily from second and that’s all the O’s needed. Kissock went 2 for 3 in the game and Rhynold shut the Giants down allowing only one base runner in the final two innings.
A little-known pick-up by the name of Matt Debeurs took the mound for the O’s against the Giants in the final on Sunday.
The Orioles jumped out to a quick lead in the first after Joey Underwood singled and would score later on a fielder’s choice to put the O’s up 1-0.
The Giants tied it in the second when Kevin Reimer hammered a Debeurs fastball over the right field fence.
But the O’s would go up in the third inning after Jim Maniago doubled to right-centre. Underwood followed with a single and Maniago raced home sliding head first just under the tag to score. The controversial call, stoked some simmering dissatisfaction with the umpiring that would almost boil over in the sixth. Underwood would also plate after second baseman Pat Brown singled to left.
In the top of four it was “déjà vu all over again” as Reimer stepped up and blasted another solo shot to make the score 3-2.
But in the bottom of the fifth, Chris Florko doubled off the wall and Maniago advanced him to third on a bunt single. The speedy Florko would score after Cam Ferguson hit a high chopper back to the mound to go up 4-2.
Debeurs left the game at the end of five, yielding three hits and three walks while striking out one batter.
Coach Colquhoun then surprisingly brought in lefty Scott Rhynold to start the sixth after he had just thrown 106 pitches in the O’s 1-0 victory the night before.
“My arm was hanging a little bit but I just kept throwing and kept spotting up, I didn’t have to throw as hard as I did last night,” said Rhynold. “I worked the count and it worked out pretty good.”
Things did not start off well, as the leadoff Manitoba batter singled and took second base on a sacrifice bunt. Rhynold then faced slugger Reimer who already had deposited two over the fence in the game but the decision to pitch to him was a no-brainer, says Colquhoun.
“I thought lefty (Rhynold) had his number last night – he (Reimer) went 0 for 4 against him so I wasn’t worried.”
Rhynold had also struck Reimer out twice in the previous game so he knew what the Giant slugger didn’t like.
“He hit fastballs on his home runs, so I just stuck with off speed and kept him off balance,” said Rhynold.
On a two and two pitch, Reimer bounced out to the short stop then as he crossed first, either stepped on or “kicked” at first baseman Josh Mace’s foot as Mace stretched to make the out. Tempers flared and the benches cleared as catcher Kyle Mace voiced his displeasure.
The Giants would eventually score a run to make it 4-3 however Rhynold would end the inning by picking off the runner on first with a lightning move to close out the sixth.
The Giants went quietly in the seventh and the Orioles became the 2011 Western Canada Champions. Joey Underwood and Jim Maniago went 2 for 3 for the O’s while Scott Rhynold was named tournament MVP.
“The boys played really, really well they should be proud,” said Colquhoun.
“But these guys (Manitoba) are a hell of a ball club. They could hit the ball and they didn’t make any errors and their pitchers threw strikes. I mean we just wanted to put on a good game for the people that are coming out to watch too.”