Tri-County Rangers captured the provincial junior 21-U baseball championship Aug. 24 in Kentville, upsetting top-seed Dartmouth 11-7 in the final. The Kentville junior Wildcats, who stepped up to co-host the provincial tournament with Hantsport, finished the weekend with a record of one win and three losses, though two of their losses were by two runs or less.
In their opening game, the Wildcats overcame 3-0 and 4-1 deficits to edge Halifax 5-4, scoring the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the seventh on consecutive hits from Wes Harding, Adam Gardner, Justin Beach and Bradley Fuller. Nick Tibert pitched complete game and earn the victory, recording six strikeouts. Dryden Schofield and Ethan Lycan Lang each had a pair of hits.
In game two, Kentville met Dartmouth and dropped a tough 2-0 decision. Harding went the distance on the mound, striking out five and allowing only one earned run.
Unfortunately, according to coach Lyle Boylen, the Wildcats left nine runners on base, and had the bases loaded in the sixth inning, but “weren’t able to get the big hit when we needed it.” Fuller had two hits to lead the offence.
Kentville’s third game Saturday afternoon was against the Nova Scotia Youth Selects 17-U provincial team, and ended 2-1 for NS in another close loss. The Wildcats managed eight hits off Youth Selects’ starter Jake Lonar of Coldbrook, but left eight more runners on base.
Tibert led the offence with a huge home run, accounting for the lone Kentville run. Michael Boylen and Schofield each had two hits. Fuller went the distance on the mound, striking out six, and also allowed only one earned run. Cameron MacPherson of Canning had two hits and scored both runs for the Youth Selects.
Despite their 1-2 record, the Wildcats qualified for the semifinals on Sunday, along with Hantsport, which had two wins, one by forfeit, and one loss.
Hantsport drew Tri-County in their semifinal, and ended up on the short end of a 7-5 decision. The Wildcats drew Dartmouth, and despite leading 7-4 after three-and-a-half innings, ended up losing 18-7.
Kentville was short on pitching, due to the tournament schedule and an injury to pitcher Christian Vogler. After starting strong, “the wheels fell off” in the bottom of the fourth when Dartmouth struck for 10 runs, Boylen said.
“The issues that haunted us all season – the need for a full-time catcher, and our depth overall – showed up big-time at provincials,” the coach said.
“We were a couple of pitchers short to truly compete in a tournament like this, and it showed up in our last game. Vogler was hurt and unavailable, and two other pitchers couldn’t be there, which was too much for us to overcome.”
These issues, he said, “will be addressed over the winter. Several players have contacted me about playing for Derek (co-coach Derek Atwater) and I next season, so our future does look bright.
“We had a tremendous group of young men on this team,” Boylen added. “It was a pleasure to spend the summer with them. Jeff Longaphy is the only player who can’t come back next season, and we hope to see him playing for the senior team.”