Kentville's Colby Turple, left, is caught stealing during Game 6 on Saturday. – Greg McNeil, TC•Media
By John DeCoste
Over his long career in senior baseball, Ian Mosher has taken part in many championship finals. A few have ended in victories; more, like this year, have ended in losses.
“This was a difficult one,” said Mosher, head coach of the Kentville Senior Wildcats, following his team’s loss to Sydney in this year’s NSSBL final.
Kentville entered game six of the series Oct. 12 in Sydney with a 3-2 series lead. The Wildcats took a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning, but Sydney scored six times over the last two innings for an 8-6 win.
The Sooners then jumped all over Kentville game seven starter Colby Turple for five runs in the first inning of the seventh and deciding game that evening and never looked back, claiming the series and league championship with a 9-4 victory.
“It turned so quickly,” Mosher said. “And once it turned, it was hard to get it back.”
Nobody stopped playing, or stopped trying, he added.
“(Sydney) was dead in the water, the crowd silent,” he said. Then the Sooners “got some life and made the absolute most of the opportunities they had.”
Wildcats bench was strong
“This was the best team we’ve had in recent years,” said Mosher. “On the other hand, we still weren’t able to win.”
Asked if he had any regrets, or if there was anything he might do differently if he had the chance, he acknowledged, “I’ve replayed every decision over and over, and given the personnel we had, I don’t know how I could have managed it any differently.”
Codey Shrider pitched magnificently for seven innings in game six, he said.
“I stretched him out as long as I could, then went to Curtis (Falls), who got the one big out he needed, but ended up giving up the walk-off homer in the ninth.”
He planned to start Kevin Nichols in game seven, but after sitting around all afternoon, the veteran “just wasn’t able to get loose. Then the lights in the ballpark wouldn’t come on.”
Mosher ended up going with Turple, who promptly gave up five runs in the first inning. To his credit, Nichols came on in relief and threw four scoreless innings.
“It’s all hindsight now,” Mosher said. “You can’t have five different guys warming up before the game, then pick the one who looks the best. I went down there thinking I’d have more than enough pitching, but it turned out I didn’t.”
Competition in this league, he added, is fierce. Sydney, he pointed out, “is for real now,” Truro is likely to be improved, and “neither Halifax or Dartmouth is going away.”
Mosher said he has “no gigantic regrets, but if even one of these guys walks away without winning a championship, I’ll regret that.”
A lost opportunity
“The whole team is disappointed,” he said, to have come so close and fallen short.
“It was a hostile environment, but we battled hard. We’re a good team, but so is Sydney. There are no excuses. You either win or you don’t.”
It’s left Mosher concerned that some of the team also lost out on their shot to win the NSSBL final.
“My fear is that the window may have closed on our veterans being able to win a championship. A lot of guys made a big commitment, and a lot of sacrifices, to get us to where we were,” he said.
“We were every bit as good as they were, maybe even better, but we weren’t better when it counted.”
As a result, some of the older players may end up retiring, Mosher said. Five or six of the guys in the lineup have children, and in many cases young children, he added.
“It creates a whole new dynamic, and other life issues to consider. Some of them may have to decide whether they have time for this anymore.”
Mosher is already anticipating that he “may have to do some coaxing over the winter” to get them back next season.
If some of the older veterans do choose to retire, Mosher suggested that the team might need to look at changing its focus.
“We used a lot of young players this year, who were asked to step up and did so,” he said.
For Mosher’s part, he plans to be back in the dugout in 2014, and remains committed to whatever roster he ends up leading.
On Oct. 13, the day after the final was decided, the loss was “so fresh, and hurts so much,” Mosher said. Whatever their decision, “the guys are going to need some time to reflect, maybe do some soul-searching.”