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Junior Wildcats qualify for nationals


The Kentville junior AAA Wildcats are Regina-bound for the U-21 baseball nationals Aug. 13-17 after advancing from a national elimination tournament in Kentville.

The Kentville junior AAA Wildcats qualified for the U-21 national tournament Aug, 13-17 in Regina with a second-place finish at a national elimination tournament July 17-18 in Kentville.

In a tournament that was ultimately shortened to two days from three, the Wildcats finished with a record of two wins and one loss, but the two wins were the ones they needed to advance as one of the top two teams.

Kentville opened July 17 against Hantsport and scored a 5-0 win, with Luke Muise pitching a complete-game, two-hit shutout.

As it turned out, Muise only needed one run to win, but his teammates gave him five, on just six hits as Hantsport starter Eric Such also pitched a strong game.

The Wildcats struck early with three runs in the first inning. Justin Beach had a two-run double, scoring Adam Gardner and Nick Barrett, and Michael Boylen’s sacrifice fly plated Beach.

Kentville added a pair of runs in the third, Mitch Bunker’s single driving in Dryden Schofield’s double, and Bunker scoring on a Wes Harding single.

In game two, Dartmouth defeated Halifax by the score of 11-1 in five innings.

The next morning, July 18, Kentville took on Halifax and scored a 6-2 victory. Halifax scored twice in the first on a throwing error, but Bradley Fuller, who finished with a complete-game two-hitter and five strikeouts, shut them out the rest of the way.

Halifax threw in its best pitcher, Jordan Pelham, and he pitched well despite allowing six runs, but Fuller was better.

The Wildcats opened the scoring in the third off of a sacrifice fly by Beach.

In the fifth, Barrett singled, Beach was hit by a pitch, and Muise drove in Barrett with a fielder’s choice. A second Kentville run scored on a passed ball.

The Wildcats put the game away in the sixth. Grant Ruffinengo doubled, and Brandon Croft entered the game as a pinch-runner. Harding singled, and Barrett drove in both Croft and Harding with a two-run single.

Kentville’s final run scored on a fielder’s choice by Bunker after singles by Muise and Boylen.

The win improved Kentville to 2-0. Halifax, which fell to 0-2, was eliminated.

Dartmouth then improved to 2-0 with a 4-0 win over Hantsport, eliminating the Shamrocks and punching Kentville and Dartmouth’s tickets to nationals.

Kentville’s final round robin game was against Dartmouth. According to coach Lyle Boylen, thanks to the way the draw had gone, the game “meant virtually nothing.”

The Wildcats got decent pitching from Harding, who allowed five hits and struck out four over six innings, and Christian Vogler, who gave up a run in the seventh despite two strikeouts, but ended up on the short end of a 5-1 decision.

Unfortunately for Kentville, three of Dartmouth’s runs “were scored by players who had either walked or been hit by a pitch.”

Dartmouth was able to start its ace, Jesse Borden, who allowed just three hits while striking out seven. The Wildcats’ run came in the fourth, with Muise’s single cashing in a double by Schofield.

Kentville and Dartmouth would have met in Sunday’s final, but it was rained out. As coach Boylen pointed out, the only purpose of the game would have been to decide which team would have the first choice of pick-ups from other teams for nationals.

Kentville coaches Boylen and Derek Atwater “agreed to let Dartmouth pick first,” as the Wildcats “had different players in mind anyway.” The final will not be played, at least not at this time.

For both coaches and many of the Kentville players, it will be their second trip to nationals in three years, with their last appearance having been as provincial midget champions in 2013. Now, Boylen said, “the fundraising begins.”

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