The Delta Tigers are New Jersey bound after repeating as B.C. Baseball’s Bantam AAA 15U provincial champions.
They capped a memorable four days at Blundell Park in Richmond with a 5-2 victory over the host Chuckers in Sunday afternoon’s gold medal game. That earns them the opportunity to represent B.C. at the Diamond Nation 16U Blue Chip Prospects Tournament in Flemington, slated for Aug.7-11.
When the Tigers produced their first provincial title a year earlier, B.C. Baseball had yet to arrange a post tournament trip for the champion. That meant added motivation heading into the 2017 campaign, especially for the second-year players.
“Last year was sweet but we didn’t get to go anywhere. The big thing today was calming them down because I knew that’s all they had in their heads. I’m so excited for the kids,” beamed general manger and head coach Cam Frick. “This time next week we are getting on a plane and that’s awesome.”
The Tigers’ trip back east was hardly a certainty heading into Sunday’s playoff round.
Not only were the tournament’s top four seeds all still in contention, each of them had well-rested key pitchers after what proved to be a meaningless final day of round-robin play.
The Tigers locked up a semi-final berth with wins over Victoria (12-2), Kelowna (8-4) and Vancouver (11-3). They dropped their final game to Chilliwack (8-4) and settled for second place in their pool.
That set the stage for a semi-final showdown with season-long nemesis WestCoast Cardinals. The Maple Ridge team defeated Delta at the provincial qualifier two weeks earlier and also prevailed in the semi-final at the Richmond tournament back in May. On that day, the Tigers’ bats were silenced by Cards’ ace Max Yuen who was looking to duplicate his performance.
What the Tigers had going for them entering the playoff round was three outstanding second-year pitchers, led by ace Braedy Euerby who the Cards had not seen this season.
The Ladner right-hander was up to the challenge in a huge way. He allowed no hits and struck out 10 in nearly six innings of work before reaching the maximum 95 pitches allowed. Connor MacIntosh came on to record the final four outs and a combined no-hitter in a 6-0 Delta win.
“Every team left in the semis had an ace but I thought we had the best pitcher in the province and the best number two and three guys as well and that showed today,” continued Frick. “The way Braedy pitched today. Oh my goodness. They had only one hard out. It was awesome.”
The game was scoreless until the fourth when the Tigers squeezed a run home with a perfectly-executed bunt. They did the same in the fifth before Euerby capped his brilliant outing with a two-run homer in the top of seventh. Two more insurance runs followed.
“I felt really confident on the mound. I had all my off speed pitches on and that was good. The team was really into it which got me up even more as well,” said Euerby. “Once I put that home run over the fence it just topped everything off.”
The final was also a tight affair with the Tigers laying down more key bunts to help erase a 2-1 deficit. MacIntosh was terrific on the mound before making way for Noah Thomas who closed out the win.
“In big games like provincials, teams get nervous on defence and being able to bunt is a huge thing,” added Frick. “Definitely it’s something we have worked on in practice and, earlier this week, we told them we had to be better bunting. We didn’t lay one down in the provincial qualifier and this morning alone we laid down six. It was huge.”
The Tigers have now won two B.C. Baseball titles in their brief three-year history.
The roster also features: Jakob Wegner, Tommy Richards, Ryan McCarthy, Boston Warkentin, Luke Siemens, Connor Olesen, Jordan Bach, Sean Heppner, Carter Spencer and Declan Forbes.
Joining Frick on the coaching staff are Dirk Van Ommen, Ford Marcotte, and Jess Burns, along with graduate assistants Payton DeLuca, Michael Tersigni and Caleb Cassie.