Rocky Hroch tossed a complete game, two-hitter as the McGill University Redmen defeated Carleton 10-1 at Royals Field in Fredericton, N.B., on Oct. 22, to capture the team’s fourth consecutive Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association championship. The Redmen swept all five contests at the national tourney, outscoring opponent 54-15, with other wins over Concordia (8-6), Acadia (15-0 and 13-2), UNB (8-6). McGill has now won seven national baseball titles, including three in the Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association (1994, 2006, 2010).
It capped a perfect campaign for the Redmen, who won the CCBA Northern Division pennant with an unblemished 16-0 record, then reeled off nine consecutive post-season victories, extending their staggering win streak to 28 straight league and playoff games, including three from last year.
Perhaps the deal was sealed in the pre-game team meeting, when head coach and field manager Jason Starr read out an inspirational text message from Chicago Cubs assistant general manager Shiraz Rehman, who played baseball for McGill in the mid-1990s and was fortunate enough to win a World Series ring last year, although the Cubs fell shy of expectations this season.
“I hope you guys bring home the ring that we couldn’t,” wrote Rehman, who earned a commerce degree from McGill in 1999, majoring in finance and accounting. He was a switch-hitting shortstop with the Redmen for four years, serving as team captain in his junior and senior campaigns.
“It was great motivation for the guys,” revealed Starr. “I told them that we have a large community behind us, the McGill baseball family is following us and it even extends to the major leagues. They were so pumped and appreciative to hear that message. We have a family atmosphere and that’s what makes this very special. Our guys represented McGill well and were proud to wear that name on their jersey.”
Hroch, a 21-year-old management senior from Temecula, Calif., was named as player of the game. He went the full seven innings, striking out nine and allowing one unearned run. He threw 95 pitches, 61 for strikes.
“Winning was amazing there is no better feeling that that,” said Hroch, who also was the winning pitcher, although in relief, in last year’s championship-clinching game. He got off to a slow start, walking two batters and throwing a wild pitch.
“I was a little amped up to start the game, was trying to do too much but after a couple of innings, I just did my thing… My curveball was really working for me today. I couldn’t locate my fastball as well as I would have liked but I could throw the curve anywhere I wanted.”
The game was never in doubt, well at least not until after the third inning. Carleton got things going in the first, when an error led to one run.
But as they have done all season long, the Redmen rallied with machine-like precision. The tallied three in the third inning, added one in the fourth, then exploded for six runs in the fifth inning.
McGill racked up 11 hits, with two apiece from Jonathan Duforest, Camden Lawhead, Sasha Lagarde and Jared Kersh. Seven different players had hits and scored runs, with five collecting RBIs in what can best be described as a true team effort.
“It was really tough to spend the whole week away from school and most of the guys spent a lot of down time in a study room but when it came to game day, we made sure that everyone was focused and that nothing else mattered,” noted Hroch, who is one of two graduating players (along with Andre Lagarde) and wraps up an impressive collegiate career with four national titles in as many years.
Sasha Lagarde, the slightly younger fraternal twin brother of Andre, was named as the tournament’s most outstanding hitter and most valuable player in addition to being among four McGill players selected to the all-tourney team. Over his five games, the six-foot, 220-pound centrefielder from Pierrefonds, Que., led all batters with a .526 batting average (10/19), scoring seven runs and collecting nine RBIs. The education sophomore has now helped seven different teams win major championships, including McGill twice (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).
Joining Lagarde on the all-tourney team were teammates Dominic Defelice (second base), Troy Shepherd (shorstop) and Jonathan Duforest (left-field) .
Carleton starter Derek Harkin took the loss. After a dominant start, he appeared to run out of gas and surrendered 10 runs on 10 hits over five innings, striking out seven. He was relieved in the final inning by Alex Lajeunesse, the son of Marc Lajeunesse, who played hockey for McGill from 1986 to 1991. A 19-year old who was named as the tournament’s most outstanding pitcher, Alex allowed a lead-off double then retired the side, collecting a pair of strikeouts.