The Delta Tigers came agonizingly close to completing their dream season as national champions.
Already with regular season, B.C. Minor and Baseball B.C. pennants in their back pockets, the 15U Bantam AAA baseball team headed east for the first time in franchise history to represent their province at the Ray Carter Cup in Oshawa, Ont.
Ironically, the Baseball Canada tournament is named after the longtime Tsawwassen resident and Delta Sports Hall of Fame member who served as the organization’s president for many years.
Head coach Cam Frick bolstered his roster for the trip with three additions — Brandon LeBlanc (Victoria), Jared Hall (Chilliwack) and Pierce Radke (Ridge Meadows) — adding more depth to an already impressive pitching staff.
The Tigers opened play with a tough 4-2 loss to Ontario champions Whitby Chiefs then battled their way back into gold medal contention.
A solid outing from starting pitcher Ryan Heppner and plenty offence resulted in a 15-10 win over Saskatchewan. LeBlanc and Hall then delivered superb performances in victories against Quebec (4-0) and host Oshawa (10-0) to secure a semi-final berth.
Noah Cassie took to the mound for the second time and was outstanding in a 3-2 win over Prince Edward Island. Kenny Scott, Yonatan Marom and Hall each had two hits.
The stage was set for a rematch with Whitby for the national title.
Heppner got the start and the right-hander from Tsawwassen was terrific as B.C. took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth.
That’s when Whitby not only got a pair of runs but chased Heppner who had reached his maximum pitch count.
Still, the Tigers nursed a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh. A pinch hit single was followed by a pair of strikeouts.
A walk put runners on second and third when B.C. tried its fake pick-off at second — a trick play that was perfectly executed in the win over PEI and the B.C. Minor final back in July as well. Only a slip prevented it from working again and allowed the runner to safely get back to second.
An intentional walk loaded the bases when Greg LaChance’s two strike squibbler in front of home plate was enough to get him to first and tie the game. The next batter — Matt Isaacson — drove the ball to deep right field to complete the Chiefs rally.
It was the first time since 2013 a B.C. team has reached the 15U national final. Congrats to the Tigers on a tremendous 2019 campaign.
The Tigers roster also features: Malakai Dubreuill, Jaren Yamaoka, Justin Zabudsky, Jadon Nager, Taiyo Boily, Tyson Dingsdale, Diego Fuentes, Will Anderson, Everett Swaim, Carson Latimer Hayden Cuthbertson.
Rounding out the coaching staff at nationals were: Ford Marcotte, Brian Losse and Luke Yam.