From left: Kamloops veterans Rob Morrison, Zac Comeault, and Connor McKenzie are presented the BC Sr. Men’s Championship trophy by tournament coordinator Wayne Florko.

The Kamloops Sun Devils blank Burnaby Bulldogs to win provincial men’s baseball title

One run was all the Kamloops Sun Devils needed to beat Burnaby in the BC Men’s championship

The Kamloops Sun Devils muzzled the Burnaby Bulldogs bats to win the 2019 Pacific Western Brewery BC Senior Men’s championship on Monday.

Butler Park proved the Sun Devils’ lucky charm this weekend, as the team repeated its 2014 provincial victory with a 1-0 shut-out win over Burnaby. Kamloops won the provincial title five years ago in Trail, when the AM Ford Orioles last hosted, in a marathon 15-inning 5-4 decision over the Langley Blaze.

“I told these guys before we came down here, ‘You know the last time we won it, we won it in Trail,’” said the Sun Devils coach Ray Chadwick. “There’s something about Trail, we play well, we play really well.”

Related read: Trail AM Ford Orioles bow out of BCs, Burnaby vs Kamloops in final

The winning run came in the top of the fourth inning. Zac Comeault walked to lead off and was sent to third on a single from Evan Douglas. Burnaby pitcher Braeden Allemann struck out Rob Morrison for the second out, but the next batter, tournament MVP Taylor Van Ham, lined a pitch into center-field to score Comeault for the 1-0 lead.

“He (Van Ham) came up with a bunch of big hits,” said Chadwick. “He hadn’t a hit in the first two games, then he just turned it up and got some clutch hits for us and it made a big difference.”

The Sun Devils dropped their opening game of the tournament against Coquitlam Angels 14-4, then beat Victoria Mavericks Blue 4-1, before suffering a 5-2 loss to Ladysmith in the round robin.

Kamloops turned its game around in the playoff round, doubling up the Trail AM Ford Orioles 8-4 in Sunday’s quarter final, then beat 3-and-0 Coquitlam 7-1 in the semifinal on Monday morning before facing the undefeated Bulldogs in the final.

“Friday night didn’t go to well, they struggled. But we got the ‘W’ and after we got the win we knew we were in (the playoffs) regardless, so I switched the pitching up.”

The heavily favoured Burnaby team outscored the opposition 39-11 through four matches, including a 12-2 drubbing of the Pilots in the semifinals. Not only were the Sun Devils shorthanded, they were made up of a young group of college players, that included Chadwick’s son, Ty, a 16-year-old pick up. Also, in head-to-head match ups this summer, Kamloops lost six times to Burnaby, with just two wins.

Related read: Lower Mainland teams make early statements at provincials

The game was a pitching duel from the start but with two very different approaches. The Bulldogs went with ace Allemann for six innings, while the Sun Devils competed by committee. Chadwick threw Regan Gillis in to start, followed by Tyler Moskalyk who came on in the third, and Dilon Ferguson pitched the final two innings.

“The pitchers were outstanding,” said Chadwick. “We just shut down two of the best teams in BC – 14 innings, one run, so that was pretty good, and all of those guys had to throw twice this weekend, so a lot of character a lot of heart and the guys really played well.”

The Bulldogs threatened in the sixth inning, loading the bases with two out. But Ferguson struck out third baseman Sean Hotzak on a high fastball to preserve the lead and earn the save in the seventh.

The Bulldogs Alleman allowed just one run on three hits, while striking out nine batters, and walking five. The trio of Gillis, Moskalyk and Ferguson earned the shutout on six hits, two strike outs and three walks.

Van Ham went 1-for-3 with the crucial RBI for the Sun Devils, while Jeff Bouchard was 2-for-4 and Nolan Weger 2-for-3 for the Bulldogs.

With their fourth provincial title, Kamloops earns a berth into the 2020 Canadian Sr. Men’s Baseball Championship, leaving coach Chadwick, who was set to retire, with a difficult decision.

“I told them it was my last year, I said, ‘The only way I’ll do anything next year is if you guys win.’ So they did, and now I got to figure it out.”

A former professional baseball player, Chadwick, 56, has been coaching college baseball since 1998. In 2003, he became coach of Thompson Rivers University baseball team in Kamloops and coaches the Sun Devils during the summer.

As host, the Trail AM Ford Orioles thank the coordinator Wayne Florko, sponsors, and many volunteers that put in long hours over the weekend to make the championship a success.

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