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Mavericks’ miracle cut short by Team BC at men’s baseball nationals

Host team rallies for four straight wins, loses final 4-2 to Coquitlam Angels
Victoria Mavericks’ Duncan Blades hit a solo home run in Sunday night’s Baseball Canada men’s national championship game against Team BC, who ended up winning 4-2. A three-run homer from Blades had lifted the host team to a 4-1 win over Ontario 2 in the morning semifinal at Royal Athletic Park. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

A major turnaround and some momentum got the host Victoria Mavericks into the final of the Baseball Canada men’s championship Sunday at Royal Athletic Park.

But there they ran into the red-hot Coquitlam Angels, representing B.C. Using shutdown pitching and some timely hits, including a three-run home run in the first inning from Grant Malm, the Angels captured the crown with a 4-2 win over the Mavericks.

“Everybody contributed in one way or another,” said Angels head coach Kevin Powell of a weekend that saw his team go 5-1 overall, their only loss a 9-6 round robin defeat at the hands of Ilderton, Ont. on Friday.

“We had a great performance from (starting pitcher) Braeden Allemann today and then (reliever) Luke Manuel came in did a great job out of the pen. Luke’s our guy out of the pen to close games and he did his job today. Plus we had some timely hitting from Taylor Lawrence and a big swing from our guy Grant Malm.”

Duncan Blades, whose three-run homer in Sunday morning’s semifinal powered the Mavericks to a 4-1 win over Tecumseh, Ont., hit a solo shot in the third inning of the final to make it 3-1 for Team B.C.

The Mavericks rallied in the top of the fifth to score again and make it 3-2, but the B.C. champs got one back off Victoria starter Brandon Chernoff in the sixth and watched Manuel shut down the host squad.

“They were hitting their spots, throwing hard; good off-speed pitches for both of them,” said Mavericks league veteran Lanny Burrows of the Angels’ pitchers, who gave up just three hits. “You’ve got to tip your cap, they battled and got the gold. Allemann and Manuel are as good as it gets at this level.”

The Mavericks lost their first two games of the tournament, 15-1 to New Brunswick last Thursday and 4-3 to Tecumseh the following day. They regrouped to beat Nova Scotia 5-3 on Friday night and Manitoba 3-1 on Saturday to reach the quarter-finals, where they used an eight-run sixth inning to hammer Quebec 11-5.

Burrows noted the team gathered for a chat after the opening loss and came out with a much better effort the next game. “It’s a grind, it’s a long tournament, [but] you’re not out after one game, you get four round robin games,” he said. “We built a little momentum after that and had a good run, we just came up a little short.”

Half the host team came from the Mavericks league while the rest of the roster were added from up-Island clubs. The majority of the Angels were Coquitlam-based players.

Jim Swanson, managing partner of the Victoria HarbourCats and head coach for the Mavericks in this tournament, said the silver medal was as well-earned as any in recent memory, by the way the team scrapped its way back from 0-2.

The final drew a tournament-best 1,200-plus fans to the park, but Swanson said the HarbourCats-backed event will once again lose money. The nationals will be hosted elsewhere around the country in upcoming years.

Victoria Mavericks reliever Dylan Thorp is in mid-pitch in Sunday night’s Baseball Canada men’s national championship game against Team BC, who ended up winning 4-2 at Royal Athletic Park. Don Descoteau/Victoria News