Ontario University Athletics' very own October classic takes place this weekend (Oct. 17-19) when the McMaster Marauders host the 2014 OUA Baseball Championship at Bernie Arbour Stadium in Hamilton, Ont. and Nelson Park in Burlington, Ont.
The Laurier Golden Hawks finished an impressive season going 14-4 and enter the tournament looking to repeat as champions after winning the school's first ever title in 2013. The Golden Hawks have a balanced roster that scored the second most runs and allowed the second fewest in the conference. The team is anchored by starting pitcher Brett van Pelt (Whitby, Ont.) who led the league in strikeouts with 40 and earned a nod as an OUA second-team all-star. Left fielder Alex Kupchak (Oakville, Ont.) and centre fielder Jonathan Brouse (Port Perry, Ont.) were also named second-team all-stars.
If the Hawks want to repeat as champs, they will have to find a way to knock off the Brock Badgers who finished OUA play with a 17-1 record and carry an 11-game winning streak into the championship tournament.
The Badgers allowed the fewest runs in the league and feature a roster with plenty of all-stars. Justin Gideon (Pickering, Ont.) won OUA Top Hitter and was named a first-team all-star as a right fielder. Starting pitcher Justin Ayles (Brampton, Ont.) led OUA with a 0.56 earned run average, five wins, and was named a first-team all-star in addition to winning the OUA Top Pitcher Award. Brock had three additional players named as all-stars: Phil Steer (first-team shortstop) (Toronto, Ont.), Phil Owen (first-team relief pitcher) (Richmond Hill, Ont.), and Dan Nicoletta (second-team second baseman) (Newmarket, Ont.). Coach Jeff Lounsbury, in his 19th season with Brock, won OUA Coach of the Year for the third time since 2005.
Both Brock and Laurier will receive a first-round bye for finishing 1-2 in the standings.
The Badgers await the winner of the first-round matchup between the Guelph Gryphons (12-6) and Western Mustangs (11-7). The Mustangs prevented Brock from a perfect regular season record, beating the Badgers 10-0 back on September 20, and are looking to reclaim OUA glory after three-peating as champions from 2005-2007. They are led by veteran coach Mike Lumley and have two second team all-stars on their roster; third baseman Turner Spears (Guelph, Ont.) and relief pitcher Jordan Skavisnky (Saddy, Ont.).
The Gryphons have never won an OUA title but boast a high-powered offence that led the conference with 146 runs. First baseman Kyle Westwater (Campbellville, Ont.), left fielder Wes Romak (London, Ont.), and centre fielder Peter Ricciardi (Pickering, Ont.) all made the first all-star team, while catcher Justin Interisano (Guelph, Ont.) was named to the second-team after leading OUA in RBI (30) and homeruns (4).
The other first-round matchup features the Waterloo Warriors (12-6) and McMaster Marauders (1-17). Allowing just 79 runs during the season, the Warriors pitching staff stacks up with the best in the league. The Warriors also lay claim to the league's best third basemen Michael Clouthier (Guelph, Ont.), who was named a first-team all-star and finished second in the league in saves as a relief pitcher. Waterloo Shortstop Nolan Pettpiece (Burlington, Ont.) and left fielder Kyle Thalheimer (Richmond Hill, Ont.) were named as second-team all-stars.
The Marauders struggled this year, finishing last in the conference, but receiving the host's berth in the tournament will keep their season alive, and in a short tournament anything could happen. The Marauders have one first-team all-star on their roster, designated hitter Jake Chiaravalle (Hamilton, Ont.). The winner of that game faces Laurier in the next round of the double-elimination tournament.
Both first round games begin at 12 p.m. on Friday, with first-day action continuing at 4 p.m.