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Napanee loses final, brings home silver from Canadian junior fastball championship
Posted: August 11th, 2013 @ 4:36pm
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
The disappointment was palpable over the telephone from Owen Sound.
"It's not the outcome we were hoping for," Napanee Express coach Ryan Sharpe said Sunday afternoon, after his team was thumped 10-2 by the Wiarton Red Devils in the final game of the Softball Canada junior men's championship tournament.
It was a bitter end for a Napanee team that had been undefeated in the first two rounds of playoffs and went into Sunday's game having won nine of 10 games altogether in the week-long event.
Wiarton won the championship the hard way, losing its first playoff game Friday night. That meant winning two games Saturday and two more Sunday to win the title.
"They got hot at the right time," Sharpe said.
Napanee surrendered seven runs in the third inning and never recovered.
It was just the second loss of the tournament for the Express, but the second to Wiarton in the latest chapter in a season-long tussle with the Red Devils. Napanee lost the final game of the Ontario elimination tournament 9-8 to Wiarton, before suffering its only previous defeat at this tournament to the Ontario champion on Tuesday, 6-1 in a game where the Red Devils scored all of their runs in one inning.
The Express succumbed to the long ball Sunday, giving up five home runs, including three to Ty Sebastian. He and Aaron McCaw each hit a three-run shot in the seven-run Wiarton third.
Sebastian also hit a pair of solo shots, with two out in the fourth inning and leading off the seventh. In both cases he hit the first pitch, and in the seventh the next Wiarton batter, Travis Jones, also hit the first pitch over the fence to remove all doubt about the outcome.
Sebastian, a lifetime .406 hitter at Canadian junior championships from Brussells, Ont., who was 10-for-16 in the preliminary round this week, finished the tournament with five home runs and 15 runs batted in.
Napanee struggled at the plate against pitcher Michael Legace-Root, who allowed just three hits, struck out 12, didn't walk a batter and faced just three men over the minimum. The Express got its runs from solo home runs by Curtis Leonard in the fourth inning and Greg Hammell in the fifth.
After that home run, Legace-Root retired the last eight Napanee batters in a row, three by strikeout, without allowing any of them to hit the ball out of the infield.
A righthander from New Hamburg, Legace-Root was 4-1 in the playoff round for Wiarton, and 7-2 at this tournament. Lifetime at national junior championships Legace-Root is 12-4, with an earned-run average of 1.61 and 169 strikeouts in 91 innings.
"He's the real deal, for sure," Sharpe said. "He has a real good drop ball and he hits his spots very well. That's what he did all week. He's very good and he got on a roll.
"He's pitched for a lot of years and he's probably has had his ups and he's probably had his downs but this week he brought it all together. He threw the ball very well. He was very tough."
Cole Bolton took the pitching loss. He gave up all seven runs in a third inning rally that started with a couple of bloop singles and got out of hand with McCaw's two-out homer. At that point Bolton gave way to Hammell, who struck out eight and walked one the rest of the way.
That one inning spoiled an otherwise fine tournament for Bolton, who entered the game with a 3-0 record and had a 0.43 earned-run average in the preliminary round that led to his being named the tournament's outstanding pitcher.
"It happens, sometimes," Sharpe, who pitched for Napanee at national championships himself, said of Bolton's misfortune. "He was making some good pitches and a couple of them put a couple of good swings on them.
"It's one of those things. Sometimes it happens that way."
Wiarton qualified for the final by defeating defending-champion Newfoundland 3-2 Sunday morning. The Red Devils scored once in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game and once in the eighth to win it.
The Express leaves the tournament with the silver medal, the fifth medal won by a Napanee team at a Canadian junior championship in the last five years. Newfoundland goes home with the bronze.
Sharpe said that in time team members will look back at a week when they were 9-2 at a national championship tournament and be pleased with themselves.
"Pretty safe to say we'll be able to do that tomorrow," he said, "but right now it's a tough one to swallow.
"We're very happy with the week that we had. We played some really good fastball, but we're kind of down right now. We had a chance to win a Canadian championship and came up short."
Sharpe said the most gratifying aspect for him is the way every player contributed in some way to the team's success.
"It's a great group and hopefully over the next two years the group stays together and maybe we can say we're the champions one Sunday."
Ontario 007 100 2 - 10 9 0
Napanee 000 110 0 - 2 3 0
Michael Legace-Root (W,7-2) and Benjamin Heinbuch; Cole Bolton (L,3-1), Greg Hammell (3) and Cody Brooks. HRs: Ont - Ty Sebastian 3 (5), Aaron McCaw (1), Travis Jones (4); Nap - Curtis Leonard (3), Greg Hammell (1).
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