Varsity Blues crowned 2017 champions after defeating No. 2 Laurier

Photo by Alex D'Addese
Photo by Alex D'Addese

AJAX, Ont. – After three days of spirited competition on the diamonds, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues are crowned champions, beating the Laurier Golden Hawks 8-3 in the gold medal game. Rounding at the day’s medal games, the Queen’s Gaels captured the bronze after defeating the Waterloo Warriors 8-3.

Gold Medal Game: Toronto 8 Laurier 3

A five-year championship drought came to an end on Sunday, as the Toronto Varsity Blues defeated the Laurier Golden Hawks 8-3 to win the OUA baseball championship.  A relentless Toronto offence, that led the OUA in runs, took advantage of a tired Laurier pitching staff and a strong pitching performance from Peter Nash handily defeated the Laurier lineup.

Toronto got to Laurier starter Austin Hassani two batters into the game, as Michael Deluca drove in the lead off triple by Gabriel Nakonechny.  In the second, Deluca would single home two more runs in the three run inning. That hit would end Hassani’s afternoon on the mound.

Golden Hawks relievers Nick Murray and Christian Pandoff would surrender one run over two innings, on the single by Toronto second baseman, Marco Bandiera.

Laurier would get on the board in the bottom of the third on a deep double to centre field by number three hitter Jeff Hunt. It would score two and after three innings Laurier would trail 5-2. 

A key point in this game came in the bottom of the fourth. With no one out, a runner at first and Nick Cook at the plate, Nash and Tanner Young-Schultz combined to catch Kai Harris trying to steal second followed one pitch later with a strikeout of Cook. An inning beginning with what looked to be a rally, became an easy 1-2-3 inning for Nash.

In the following half inning, the Toronto Varsity Blues would put this game out of reach. Laurier would use the quarter-final and semifinal winners, Kyle Symington and Christian Hauck, to get through the inning. But with two runners in scoring position and two out, clean up hitter Bradley Bedford singled through the right side scoring both base runners and make it 7-2 Toronto. 

That would be enough for Nash, who would go six innings surrendering two runs on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts. 

Toronto head coach Mike Didier was pleased with his starter’s performance but wasn’t surprised. 

“Nash came in and shoved, he is never a guy that lacks for confidence and he has got great stuff,” said Didier. “He was unanimous choice for this start by all the coaches.”

Top OUA pitcher in most categories, Graham Tebbit, came in to close things down for the championship. He would go three innings surrendering one run. This came two days after pitching Toronto to their quarter-final win, with eight almost unhittable innings against the Guelph Gryphons. 

In the seventh, Roy Suzuki added a run for Toronto with his speed. On what would be the best display of good base running in the tournament, Suzuki scored all the way from second on an infield single by Nakonechny. That play was a perfect example of how fundamentally sound the Varsity Blues players play the game.

“They hustle, they don’t give up, they don’t take things for granted and they see themselves doing well and they perform,” said Didier.

Sunday’s win marks the Toronto Varsity Blues fifth OUA baseball championship. With that win, they move ahead of the Brock Badgers for second all time and only behind the Western Mustangs. 

Source: Sean Addis

Bronze Medal Game: Queen’s 8 Waterloo 3

The Queen’s Gaels used a strong eight inning performance by right hander Jordan Herbison and a four hit game by right-fielder Curt Smith to beat the Waterloo Warriors. With the win the Gaels are the bronze medalists at the 2017 OUA baseball championship.

Herbison, one of the top starters in the OUA during the regular season, surrendered only three runs on seven hits over eight innings. He constantly pitched ahead and attacked the zone resulting in nine strikeouts.

Queen’s scored three runs in the first inning on a bases loaded walk and back to back singles by Curt Smith and Joey Stipec. Kail Belowglowka would drive in two on a towering double in the third, and Smith would drive in runs in both the fourth and sixth to give him three runs batted in on the day. 

Waterloo starter Luis Grisanti was pulled in the second after Queen’s put runners on first and second with no one out and up by three. Rayman Singh would come in to strand the runners and provide Waterloo six innings of relief.

In the top of the fifth, with Waterloo trailing 6-0, the Warriors got on the board on a two out triple by Michael Kritz. In the sixth they would add another two more runs on a double by Paul Boyadjian. That would cut the lead in half, but Waterloo would be shut down by Herbison and reliever Devin Burns.

“In each game we were tested, we built up big leads and we needed to bear down when other teams were able to string things together. That is something that Queen’s teams from the past wouldn’t be able to do. This is a more resilient group than in the past and is a big leap for our program,” said Queen’s head coach Jeff Skelhorne-Gross.

Skelhorne-Gross had praise for the performance of the Gaels opponents. The ninth ranked Waterloo Warriors team surprised many making their way to the Bronze medal game. “The story of this tournament was the Waterloo Warriors and the run they put together in these playoffs. After a rough regular season, being able to get through the play in and knock off Brock it was pretty incredible,” said Skelhorne-Gross.

Queen’s would score single runs in the sixth and seventh to beat the Waterloo Warriors 8-3, and be awarded the Bronze Medal of the OUA baseball championship.

Source: Sean Addis