The Kentville Wildcats Midget AAA team will play at the national championships in Quebec Aug. 15-18. - Jennifer Vardy Little photo
By John DeCoste
A long and eventful season caught up with the Kentville Wildcats midget AAA baseball team as they hosted provincials Aug. 23 to 25 in Kentville.
The tournament was originally an eight-team event, but was scaled back to seven at the last minute when Halifax pulled out due shortage of players.
The Wildcats entered the tournament having just returned from midget nationals in Quebec. In the first game of the modified round robin, Kentville faced Hammonds Plains and won 7-4 behind the pitching of Wes Harding and Bradley Fuller.
In their second game, the Wildcats topped Cape Breton 9-3 to improve to 2-0. Eric Such and Brett Long handled the pitching, and Harding, Mike Boylen and Ryan Kaulbach led the Kentville offense.
The round robin concluded Saturday with Kentville and Dartmouth both at 2-0. As Dartmouth had allowed fewer runs, they claimed top spot, while the Wildcats drew Cape Breton again as their opponent in the crossovers.
In a tight game, Kentville prevailed 7-6, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. Unfortunately, the Wildcats ended up having to use Fuller to close the game, leaving him ineligible to pitch at all on Sunday.
Kentville advanced to the semifinals Sunday against Stellarton - the team they had defeated in the final of the national elimination tournament earlier in the summer.
A short-staffed Wildcats squad ran into a hot pitcher in Nathan Furler, who threw a shutout in a 7-0 Stellarton victory. Dartmouth went on to edge Stellarton 9-8 in an entertaining championship game.
Wildcats’ coach Lyle Boylen wasn’t making any excuses, but he did not the team was shorthanded, mainly due to players’ work commitments.
The shortage of players “stretched our pitching staff, so we didn’t have enough (pitchers) for the final, even if we had beaten Stellarton.”
Traditionally, he pointed out, “the team that goes away to nationals doesn’t do well at provincials and this happened to us as well.
“It doesn’t make it any easier to take,” he said.
Boylen and fellow coach Derek Atwater weren’t disappointed with the Wildcats’ experience at nationals.
“(We) competed hard in all five of our round robin games, playing against all-star teams from much larger urban areas than Kentville,” Boylen said. “(We) won two games, lost two games in extra innings and another in the bottom of the seventh. If we had won one more game, we would have gone to the medal round.
“Getting to the medal round would have been an incredible accomplishment,” he said, and the team is proud of the 10th-place finish.
Hosting the provincial tournament capped a busy and fulfilling 12 months for the Wildcats, starting with their provincial midget AAA championship win a year ago, continuing with their victory in the national elimination tournament and climaxing this month with competitive appearances at both nationals and again at provincials.