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Junior Wildcats' coaches 'realistic' about team's performance at 21U baseball nationals

Adam Gardner is one of five members of the Kentville junior AAA Wildcats in his final year of junior eligibility. The Wildcats found the going tough at the recent 21U nationals, but though Kentville finished with an 0-4 record, the coaching staff was generally pleased with the team's effort against top-level competition.
Adam Gardner is one of five members of the Kentville junior AAA Wildcats in his final year of junior eligibility. The Wildcats found the going tough at the recent 21U nationals, but though Kentville finished with an 0-4 record, the coaching staff was generally pleased with the team's effort against top-level competition.

KENTVILLE - The Kentville junior AAA Wildcats went 0-4 at the recent Baseball Canada 21U nationals, but coach Lyle Boylen says, “I’m not disappointed, I’m realistic.”  

Speaking Aug. 19, Boylen said, “the competition we saw at nationals is far greater than anything we see in Nova Scotia, and is hard to prepare for.

“I believe our players, for the most part, played as well as they could, but it wasn’t enough to handle the level of teams we faced.”

On the other hand, “we now know what needs to be done, so we can be better prepared if this opportunity happens for us again.”

Kentville’s first game was against Manitoba, which was “a provincial all-star team, not a club team like us.” The Wildcats “got off to a slow start, due mainly to nerves,” and ended up losing 9-1.

Luke Muise and Mitchell Bunker split the pitching duties, allowing 11 hits and striking out two. 

The Wildcats “left seven on base, and made a couple of baserunning blunders.”

Dryden Schofield had two singles, Ryan MacDonald a single and a run scored, and Wes Harding a double.

In their second game, Kentville was blanked 15-0 by Burnaby, B.C. – again, “a select team” of mostly college players.

“We were badly outmatched," Boylen said. "It was our second game of the day in extremely hot conditions, and it showed in our level of play.”

Only three of Burnaby’s hits went for extra bases. “They had a lot of singles just out of the reach of our infielders, or just in front of our outfielders.”

On day two, Kentville took on Windsor, Ontario and ended up losing a competitive game 5-2.

Ontario opened with two in the first, but Kentville tied it up in the bottom of the inning.  Ryan MacDonald had a sacrifice fly to score one run, and Grant Ruffinengo scored the second on the front end of a double steal.

Jordan Pelham, a pickup for the tournament from Halifax, pitched the complete game, allowing eight hits.

“After the game, the Ontario coaches complimented us on our play, and being able to stay with them the entire game.” Ontario went on to capture the silver medal.

Kentville’s fourth and final game was against the host Regina squad. The final score was 5-1, with Regina scoring all five runs “in the sixth inning with two outs. We just couldn’t close out the inning.”

Bradley Fuller pitched the complete game, allowing six hits with five strikeouts. Nick Barrett had two singles and one RBI, and Schofield and Mike Boylen each doubled.

“Overall,” coach Boylen said, “our pitching was pretty good, with two complete games,” but offensively, the Wildcats left far too many men on base.

“We need to do a better job of moving our runners and driving them in when they get on base. An overall commitment to playing better defence is also needed to compete at this level of tournament.”

He added, “it was a great learning experience, and we all had a pretty good time,” despite the game results. “This is a great group of players who always pull for each other, are great teammates and play the game the right way.”

The junior Wildcats lose five players – Dryden Schofield, Ethan Lycan-Lang, Christian Vogler, Adam Gardner and Justin Beach – “who all gave a lot to this team and many other teams in the past, and will all be missed.

“They have all been great teammates throughout their careers, and the coaching staff (Boylen, Derek Atwater and Jason Pleasant Sampson) wish them all the best going forward.”

Speaking Aug. 19, Boylen said, “the competition we saw at nationals is far greater than anything we see in Nova Scotia, and is hard to prepare for.

“I believe our players, for the most part, played as well as they could, but it wasn’t enough to handle the level of teams we faced.”

On the other hand, “we now know what needs to be done, so we can be better prepared if this opportunity happens for us again.”

Kentville’s first game was against Manitoba, which was “a provincial all-star team, not a club team like us.” The Wildcats “got off to a slow start, due mainly to nerves,” and ended up losing 9-1.

Luke Muise and Mitchell Bunker split the pitching duties, allowing 11 hits and striking out two. 

The Wildcats “left seven on base, and made a couple of baserunning blunders.”

Dryden Schofield had two singles, Ryan MacDonald a single and a run scored, and Wes Harding a double.

In their second game, Kentville was blanked 15-0 by Burnaby, B.C. – again, “a select team” of mostly college players.

“We were badly outmatched," Boylen said. "It was our second game of the day in extremely hot conditions, and it showed in our level of play.”

Only three of Burnaby’s hits went for extra bases. “They had a lot of singles just out of the reach of our infielders, or just in front of our outfielders.”

On day two, Kentville took on Windsor, Ontario and ended up losing a competitive game 5-2.

Ontario opened with two in the first, but Kentville tied it up in the bottom of the inning.  Ryan MacDonald had a sacrifice fly to score one run, and Grant Ruffinengo scored the second on the front end of a double steal.

Jordan Pelham, a pickup for the tournament from Halifax, pitched the complete game, allowing eight hits.

“After the game, the Ontario coaches complimented us on our play, and being able to stay with them the entire game.” Ontario went on to capture the silver medal.

Kentville’s fourth and final game was against the host Regina squad. The final score was 5-1, with Regina scoring all five runs “in the sixth inning with two outs. We just couldn’t close out the inning.”

Bradley Fuller pitched the complete game, allowing six hits with five strikeouts. Nick Barrett had two singles and one RBI, and Schofield and Mike Boylen each doubled.

“Overall,” coach Boylen said, “our pitching was pretty good, with two complete games,” but offensively, the Wildcats left far too many men on base.

“We need to do a better job of moving our runners and driving them in when they get on base. An overall commitment to playing better defence is also needed to compete at this level of tournament.”

He added, “it was a great learning experience, and we all had a pretty good time,” despite the game results. “This is a great group of players who always pull for each other, are great teammates and play the game the right way.”

The junior Wildcats lose five players – Dryden Schofield, Ethan Lycan-Lang, Christian Vogler, Adam Gardner and Justin Beach – “who all gave a lot to this team and many other teams in the past, and will all be missed.

“They have all been great teammates throughout their careers, and the coaching staff (Boylen, Derek Atwater and Jason Pleasant Sampson) wish them all the best going forward.”

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