Laurier, Toronto set to meet in gold medal showdown

Photo by Cara Gilhula
Photo by Cara Gilhula

AJAX, Ont. - With the field narrowed down to four entering play on Saturday, a pair of semifinal bouts took to the diamonds to see who would play in Sunday's championship game.

Semifinal 1: Laurier 5 Queen's 4

The Laurier Golden Hawks used their talented pitching depth to come back and beat the Queen's Gaels, 5-4, in the first game of the OUA baseball championship semifinals.  Right-hander Christian Hauck, last year's OUA Pitcher of the Year, came out of the Laurier bullpen and pitched six scoreless innings surrendering only two hits.  His lockdown performance allowed the Golden Hawks offence to overcome a 4-1 deficit and punch their ticket to the finals on Sunday.

Hauck would come in from the bullpen in the fourth with his team down by three.  He would strikeout eight batters and would easily dominate the Queen's lineup.

Head coach Scott Ballantyne said using Hauck potentially out of the bullpen was part of their game plan, and he didn't hesitate when his starter AJ Padmore had some early struggles.

"We had a decision to make last night whether we were going to start AJ or Christian.  Christian was the pitcher of the year last year and we opted to go with AJ," said Ballantyne. "We talked about Christian being like an Andrew Miller type of reliever, who we were going to potentially use in multiple situations.  We have too many good arms to leave a guy out there too long.  They barely hit AJ, a couple of walks and that bloop single that scored two.  But we felt his velocity was down from his previous start, so it was the right time to get Christian."

And after three innings Laurier saw the opportunity to put their plan into motion and bring in Hauck.

In the first inning, Queen's scored two runs off Laurier lefty Padmore.  They took advantage of a lead off walk and three errors by the usually steady Golden Hawks infield defence. In the third Padmore struggled to find his release point.  He walked the first two batters to open the inning.  They eventually came around to score on a bloop single by Gaels right-fielder Curt Smith. 

Laurier would open the scoring with a run in the bottom of the first.  Ryley Davenport doubled in Rob Cant.  However, the Golden Hawks could have added more, but Queen's starter Austin O'Boyle was able to induce a pop out and strikeout to end the inning.

Laurier would tie the game with three runs in the fourth. A bases loaded walk to the number nine hitter Taka Ryan, followed by a fly out by Daniel Apostoli and a run-scoring single by Cant tied the game at four.

Gaels O'Boyle would pitch seven strong innings allowing seven hits and walking one while striking out two.  However, in the seventh the Queen's defence would make two huge errors that would sandwich around a Davenport single.  This would give the Golden Hawks the lead, 5-4.

Errors led to a total of three unearned runs against the two teams.  But there were some outstanding defensive plays, including Laurier catcher Connor Patterson who threw out two runners attempting to steal and Gaels centre fielder, Matt Plut, who made a spectacular over the shoulder catch. 

Queen's reliever Alex Rich would retire Laurier in the eighth to keep it a one run game. But Hauck would retire the final seven batters he faced to preserve the win for the Golden Hawks.

"I just knew I had to go in there and throw strikes and keep us in the ballgame," said Hauck.  "My fastball and command was there and I was able to use it to my advantage."

Laurier will play in the gold medal game Sunday, while Queen's will play Sunday in the bronze medal game.

Source: Sean Addis

Semifinal 2: Toronto 7 Waterloo 3

The Toronto Varsity Blues showcased why they scored the most runs in the OUA this season.  A combination of speed, power, disciplined hitting and athleticism was on display Saturday as they beat the surprise team of the tournament, the Waterloo Warriors, by a score of 7-3.  The win secured them a spot in the final against the Laurier Golden Hawks.

Varsity Blues catcher, Tanner Young-Schultz, one of the best talents in the OUA, put on an offensive show against the Warriors. With the game tied in the bottom of the fifth, he hit an opposite field two-run double against Warriors starter Austin Coles. In the seventh he would add a mammoth solo home run to right centre against Waterloo reliever Varun Krishnammagaru. 

"They (Coles) threw me outside all game and I was ready for an outside pitch and took it to left field," said Young-Schultz about his two run double.  During the at bat where he hit the home run, he had the same mindset. However, in Young-Schultz's words, "I took the outside pitch and made it an inside pitch and pulled it".

Toronto would open the scoring in the second. Graham Tebbit, the quarter-final winning pitcher against Guelph, hit a two out single to drive in a couple and give the Varsity Blues a 2-0 lead. 

In the top of the fourth Waterloo would start to chip away against Toronto starter Mateos Kekatos. A two out single by second baseman Josh Sabino would put the Warriors on the board.  Another clutch two out hit in the fifth, by Stephen Whalen, would tie the game at two.  

However, the Toronto lineup is one of the deepest and most talented in the league.  They would respond with three runs, thanks in large part to the Young-Schultz double, in the bottom of the fifth. This would give the Varsity Blues a lead they would not relinquish and make a winner out of Kekatos. His final line would be five innings pitched surrendering two runs on three hits with two strikeouts.

Toronto relievers Grant Shantz and Andrew Greig would combine to pitch the last four innings surrendering one run on four hits. After the game head coach Mike Didier spoke about how pleased he was about the performance of his pitching staff.

"Mateos has been one of our horses all year and threw five," said Didier. "We came in with Shantz, who has been one of our top relievers all year. He came and shoved, threw strikes and his fastball was working." Greig, who made his second appearance of the weekend, really impressed Didier. "He came in, threw strikes and has confidence on the mound." Greig told his head coach he wanted the ball this weekend.  He has shown why he should be given the ball by closing out both of Toronto's wins at the tournament.

Toronto will face Laurier on Sunday looking for their first OUA Championship title since 2012.

Source: Sean Addis