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Napanee wins playoff opener at national junior fastball
Posted: August 9th, 2013 @ 10:17pm
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
A diving catch in left field by Curtis Leonard snuffed a seventh-inning Saskatchewan rally and preserved a 4-2 victory for the Napanee Express Friday night in a playoff game at the Softball Canada junior men's champioship tournament in Owen Sound.
Napanee led 4-0 going into the seventh when a single, fielder's choice and strikeout had a runner on first with two out for the Saskatoon Diamondbacks. The situation appeared relatively harmless until Eric Tarnowski singled and Brandon Dauvin followed with a two-run double.
The next batter, Anthony Climenhaga, a lifetime .404 hitter at two national junior tournaments, slapped a sinking line drive to the opposite field that was drifting toward the left field foul line. Leonard dove to his right to make the catch and end the game.
"An unbelievable catch," Express coach Ryan Sharpe said. "It was a highlight-reel catch. (Without it) we would have probably been in a little bit of trouble. Had that ball dropped they would have scored at least one more run, maybe two if it got by because it was right on the chalk line.
"It would have made things real interesting."
Earlier Friday Leonard was named the tournament's all-star left fielder. Napanee's other all-star, third baseman Jarrett Williams, likewise showed himself worthy of the honour tonight by hitting a pair of solo home runs - with one out in the second inning and two out in the fourth - to stake the Express to a 2-0 lead.
Williams added a sixth-inning double for a 3-for-3 night.
"He's had quite a few home runs for us this year," Sharpe said. "He's locked in right now. He's seeing the ball very well."
Napanee scored twice in the bottom of the fifth, when Cody Brooks led off with his third home run of the tournament. After thriving on the long ball, the Express got its final run the hard way, when Brett Hall reached on an error, moved up on a sacrifice and passed ball and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cole Bolton.
That brings us to the other Napanee player to be distinguished Friday. After being named most valuable player in the preliminary round of the tournament, Bolton threw a complete game seven-hitter, striking out six and walking two, to claim the pitching win.
"He stuck to the game plan, which was keep the ball down and make them pound the ball into the ground," Sharpe said, "and our defence was very sound."
Bolton was in trouble once early in the game, when Saskatchewan had runners on first and third with one out, but he got out of it by striking out the next two batters. He never allowed more than one base-hit in an inning again until the seventh, and he retired seven batters in a row at one point through the sixth.
Still, Napanee has tended to replace its pitchers before the opposition batters get a third chance to face them in a game. Saskatchewan was going through its batting order for the third time and Sharpe said that was on his mind as the seventh inning unfolded.
"We decided that Cole was going to decide it for us," Sharpe said, "and he did a great job."
Napanee played errorless ball for the sixth time in nine games here, and Sharpe was pleased with his team's performance, despite getting just five hits.
"They threw their ace and we managed to get four (runs) off him," Sharpe said. "All in all it was a pretty sound game for us."
Napanee will play Newfoundland Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The winner of that game will go to the championship game Sunday, assured of no less than a silver medal. Newfoundland edged Ontario champion Wiarton 2-1 in Friday night's other game.
The Express opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over Newfoundland and the defending national champion has responded by winning seven of its next eight games. Wiarton, the only team here to beat Napanee, goes into the fray with the other remaining teams facing elimination with their next defeat.
Napanee, which didn't field a junior team in 2012, has been to the other five Canadian junior championships since 2007 and won a medal at four of them, including gold in 2010.
Saskatchewan 000 000 2 - 2 7 1
Napanee 010 120 x - 4 5 0
Justice Keshane (L,1-2), Kynan Tarnowski (6) and Dylan Klassen; Cole Bolton (W,2-0) and Cody Brooks. HRs: Nap - Jarrett Williams 2 (2), Cody Brooks (3).
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