There were plenty of offensive fireworks late Saturday afternoon at Royal Athletic Park and the Victoria Mavericks came out on the right end of the score, 11-7 against Manitoba.
Unfortunately it was a case of waiting too long to put it all together for the host team at the Baseball Canada men’s national championships, as their 2-2 round robin record saw them miss the playoffs.
The tournament wraps up today, with Team B.C. soon wrapping up the morning semifinal against Red Deer, Alta. and Fredericton, N.B. taking on Sherwood Park, Alta. in the other semi at noon.
The medal round sees the semifinal losers play for bronze at 4 p.m. with the semifinal winners meeting in the gold medal game at 7 p.m.
The Mavericks, who opened the tournament 0-2 with losses to Fredericton (10-4) and Tecumseh, Ont. (6-1), rebounded for a 4-3 win over Red Deer, but needed other teams to help their bid for a playoff spot.
That didn’t happen, as Tecumseh beat Manitoba 3-2 and Red Deer beat New Brunswick 4-2 Saturday.
“We knew going in that we didn’t have a chance, but we wanted to give the fans a show for showing their support all week long, and we think we gave them a good last game of the tournament for us,” said Mavericks league veteran Lanny Burrows. “That was the first game where we really broke out offensively as a group, and it’s great to watch.”
Down 4-3 to Manitoba in the top of the seventh, Victoria built a solid 7-4 lead on three straight singles, a sacrifice fly by Duncan Blades and a towering three-run home run over the left field wall by Nanaimo’s Liam Goodall, who finished the day with six runs batted in.
But Manitoba hit Mavericks pitcher Cooper Misic hard in the bottom of the inning, and tied the game on a big three-run homer by Brendan Gaunt.
Sent to an extra inning, the Mavericks responded again. Kevin Biro smacked a leadoff homer to provide the ultimate winning run, then his teammates added four more hits, with Goodall adding to his totals with a two-run single.
Victoria reliever Mitch Davidoff gave up an opening hit to Manitoba, but shut them down in order, with the Mavericks turning a double play to end the game.
“It seemed to be the theme of the week for us, after we got a lead the [other] team would come back with a home run of their own,” Burrows said. “So, we were battling all week but we showed good character coming out on top there.”
Mavericks head coach Dave Diachuk appreciated the offensive sparks, but knew his team needed to find their offence sooner to have a chance at making the playoffs for this tournament.
“The pitching is top-notch. There’s a lot of guys that can hit and when you make a mistake they make you pay for it,” he said.
“We kind of thought our bats were going to catch up a little quicker. We knew we were going to be rusty at the start cause of a lag between playoffs and [nationals]. Guys were playing to try and stay in shape and keep up with it. I thought we really started hitting the ball well in the last half of the tournament.”
With Baseball Canada and the Victoria organizing committee having agreed to host the tournament here in 2018, it gives the host group a chance to further fine tune things on the field, Diachuk added. “We’re going to try and build another squad up next year and hopefully we’ll be more productive early in the tournament and later on as well.”
Diachuk said he’s been to many nationals and hadn’t seen a better-run event, with “first-class facilities.” He gave kudos to the committee led by Jim Swanson or the Victoria HarbourCats, and the field operations crew.