ByNick Frost and Earl Zukerman
Game MVP Tim Jones of Lake Jackson, Texas, gave himself a pretty special birthday gift with a complete game, eight-strikeout performance as McGill cruised to a 6-1 victory over Concordia to capture the Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association national championship, Sunday, at Gary Carter Field on the grounds of Trudeau Park.
The Redmen won four of their five games in the six-team CCBA tourney to collect their fourth national baseball title, including championships won under the old CIBA banner in 1994, 2006 and 2010.
Concordia outhit McGill 7-6, but stranded nine runners on base. Jones, a 5-foot-8, 160-pound southpaw, was in control throughout, allowing no earned runs on seven hits and two walks over seven innings.
“I struggled a little bit letting guys on base, but I was able to get out of it every time,” admitted the 28-year-old Jones, a first-year master’s student in internet business, who previously won a league title with Texas A & M Kingsville, where he earned a BA in sports business. “The offence picked me up when I needed them to and we were able to keep them from getting runs across, so it was a complete team effort tonight… It’s amazing, a great feeling to be national champions.”
Jones, who said that his pre-game meal was a Montreal bagel with cream cheese and coffee, was advised the day before that he would be getting the ball for the gold medal game if McGill won the Sunday morning semifinal, which turned out to be a 2-0 shutout over the Universite de Montreal.
“He battled through,” said Jason Starr, a former McGill player now in his third year as head coach and field manager of the Redmen. “They got a couple runners on almost every inning. The first inning, (leftfielder) Alexander Levis threw a guy out at the plate – (Andre Lagarde attempting to score on a line drive single by J.C. Paquin) – which really gave us momentum and then we kept scoring one or two runs every inning, but Jones was phenomenal. They’re a good hitting team, Concordia. To shut them down to one run through seven innings is an accomplishment.”
Concordia starter Brandon Berkovits was charged with the loss. He lasted just 3.1 innings, walked three, struck out five, and allowed five runs, three of them unearned.
Shortstop Tyler Welence led McGill’s offence, getting on base three times, including a third-inning single and a sixth-inning double. A bio-resource engineering junior from Ridgewood, N.J., Welence was named tournament MVP. Over the five games, he batted .529 (9-for-17), with two walks, a pair of doubles, three RBIs and five runs scored.
After a scoreless first inning, McGill drew first blood in the second. Rookie centrefielder Rocky Hroch of Temecula, Calif., opened the scoring on a fielder’s choice to short, bringing in second-baseman Jamie Fuoco, a junior from Pierrefonds, Que. Two plays later, Hroch came home after designated-hitter James Vardy of Pointe Claire, Que., smacked a double to right field.
Concordia quickly replied with their only run of the day on a sacrifice fly by Alex Hall, closing the gap to 2-1. But McGill cashed in two more runs in the third. With the bases loaded, right-fielder James Pavelick of Surrey, B.C., singled to left, scoring both Levis and Welence to make it 4-1.
“Small ball” paid off again in the fourth, as third-baseman Robert Sedin of Sunnyvale, Calif., made it 5-1 with an RBI-single to bring home Vardy. Two innings later, Welence tallied the game’s final run on a fielder’s choice by Fuoco.
Winning the national championship served as vengeance for McGill against Concordia, who won five of the previous eight matchups against the Redmen this fall, including a 3-1 decision to capture the CCBA Northern Division title on Oct. 19.
“Concordia’s a good team and we said coming in that we figured the two best teams would be us and Concordia,” added Starr, who also won national titles as a position coach with the Redmen in 2006 and 2010. “Even the games that we lost against them by one run, we knew that if we could just do some little things better and execute and not leave runners on base, we’d have a chance. The guys came in super confident today.
Redmen Rap: McGill posted a stellar 21-9 record on the campaign overall, including a 14-6 regular season mark… The Redmen collected three of the four CCBA major post-game honours, including the most outstanding pitcher award, which went to Ryan Kramer, who struck out 13 and gave up just three hits in a 2-0 shutout over Montreal in the Sunday morning semifinal…. The others went to the aforementioned Jones and Welence… McGill seniors expected to graduate include outfielders Adam Gordon and Daniel Porter, along with pitchers Landen Moore, Elliott Ariganello and Simon Ehrmantraut.