Game MVP Domenic DeFelice hit a bases-clearing double to spark a seven-run explosion in the first inning as McGill cruised to a 9-4 victory over UNB in the nation’s capital, Sunday, to capture the Canadian University World Series for the fifth consecutive year.
The Redmen, swept all five contests at the Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association tournament, held at RCGT Park, outscoring opponents 51-16. Their list of victims included easy preliminary round romps over Acadia (12-1), Concordia (13-6) and Saint Mary’s (13-3). They doubled Carleton 4-2 in a semifinal on Sunday morning, returning the diamond with a vengeance just hours later to win the nightcap. The win over UNB marked McGill’s 13th consecutive victory at the national tourney, dating back to a 3-1 setback to Saint Mary’s on Oct. 28, 2016.
The team has now won eight national titles, including three in the defunct Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association (1994, 2006, 2010).
Big red machine
It capped another stellar campaign for the Redmen, who finished with a 34-9-3 record overall. They won the CCBA Northern Division pennant with a sizzling 13-3 regular season record, then reeled off a 9-2 mark in post-season play.
“What an incredible weekend, the guys are excited and they deserve it, I’m so proud of them,” said Casey Auerbach, a long-time member of the program in his first year as head coach and field manager. “Each of our championships have had a different feel to it and winning five in a row is extra special. It seems like it was a different player making a contribution every night and we’ve got a lot of new players on this team played a big role as well. It’s a special group, they’re really proud to represent McGill and we really kind of played our best baseball when it really mattered.”
First inning fireworks
McGill, which outhit UNB 9-7, erased an early 1-0 deficit with seven runs in the bottom of the first inning, then added two more in the fourth to take a commanding 9-1 advantage. UNB rallied for three in the top of the fifth but that was all they could muster.
Starting pitcher Sam Greene, a management junior from Philadelphia, merited the historic victory. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound right-hander lasted five and a third innings, allowing six hits and four runs while striking out three and walking three. Henry Dennis, a history senior from Scarborough, Ont., threw 1.3 innings in relief out of the bullpen.
Chris Thomas took the loss for UNB. He surrendered nine runs on eight hits over three innings, with two walks and one strikeout.
McGill’s Mr. October
For the second straight year, McGill’s Sasha Lagarde was named as the tournament’s most valuable player. He was one of four McGill players with multi-hit games, including DeFelice, Troy Shepherd and Jonathan Duforest.
Lagarde, a six-foot, 220-pound centrefielder from Pierrefonds, Que., registered a sizzling .467 batting average (7/15), scoring 11 runs and collecting nine RBIs over the five games. He drew five walks, was hit by a pitch once and managed to pilfer a pair of stolen bases. The 25-year-old elementary education senior has now helped eight different teams win major championships, including McGill three times (2018, 2017, 2016), the Trois-Rivieres Aigles (Can-Am League, 2015), Mercer University Bears (NCAA, Atlantic Sun Conference, 2013), Chipola College Indians (NJCAA, 2011), LaSalle Cardinals (QJEBL President’s Cup, 2009) and Lac St. Louis (Canadian championship with Team Quebec, Canada Games, 2009).
Seven seniors leaving team
Despite McGill’s complete dominance over the tournament, only two Redmen were honoured on the all-tourney team. Joining Lagarde was rookie third baseman Michael O’Toole. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound arts freshman from Vancouver batted a lofty .412 during the series, going 7-for-17 with a walk. He stroked a double, one triple, scored seven runs and drove in two others.
Rounding out the squad was Concordia catcher Michel Dagenais, UNB first baseman Mike Washburn, Carleton second baseman Jonah Poirier, UNB shortstop Adam Estey, Concordia left-fielder Josh Heffel and UNB right-fielder Ian Horne, who had 10 RBIs and was also named as the most outstanding hitter. The most outstanding pitcher was UNB’s Colby Lyle, who posted a 3-0 record.
The Redmen are expecting to lose seven seniors to graduation, including pitching ace Rocky Hroch, a management senior from Temecula, Calif., who will graduate with two no-hitters and five national championship rings. Other expected losses include both the Lagarde brothers (Sasha and Andre), Shane Curran, Henry Dennis, Benji Kaiserman and Jack Pantalena.