Jeff Gard/Today’s Northumberland
They were designated as the visiting team for the final game, but the Northumberland Jacks felt right at home as they won the Ontario Baseball Association 14U ‘B’ championship Sunday afternoon in Port Hope.
It’s the fifth straight year the Northumberland Baseball Association has hosted an OBA championship tournament during Labour Day weekend.
This year’s host club, the minor bantam Jacks, went undefeated in five games to capture the title, including a victory over the Halton Hills Eagles in what turned out to be the final game Sunday. Teams had to be defeated twice to be eliminated from the double-knockout format so a Halton Hills win would have forced a deciding game.
Northumberland had two chances, if necessary, to win Sunday thanks to a victory over Halton Hills on Saturday evening in the battle between remaining undefeated teams. That was a lopsided affair, though, as the Jacks won the mercy-shortened game 17-2.
On Sunday, the Jacks scored the first seven runs en route to a 8-4 win in the final.
It was the first OBA championship for this group of Jacks players.
“They’re a great group of kids,” said coach Gord Kelly. “They challenged themselves and they went and got it. It was a great end to a wonderful year.
“They’re hardworking…and they’re all about the team not the ‘I’,” he added. “They’re about the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.”
As the visiting team, the Jacks were up to bat first and promptly jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top half of that opening inning as Sidney Wakely, Ben McNee and Chris Brydges crossed the plate.
A strong defensive play in the bottom of the first helped keep Halton Hills off the scoreboard. A ball landed just in front of Jacks’ centre fielder Brydges for a single, but he made a strong throw to third base where an Eagles’ runner was tagged out.
Halton Hills loaded the bases with one out in the second inning, but Jacks pitcher Jacob Bone helped get his club out of the jam as the Eagles popped out twice in foul territory.
Northumberland, which had the bases loaded twice, scored four runs in the top of the third, including three off a single by Jack Kelly which cleared the bases the first time. Wakely scored on the hit and McNee and Brydges followed across the plate due to errors charged to the Eagles.
The Jacks loaded the bases again, still with one out, and took a 7-0 lead as Andrew Eriksson drew a walk to bring home Kelly.
Halton Hills answered back with a run in the bottom of the third and two in the fifth.
In the top of the seventh, Ben Lynch singled to score Brydges and give the Jacks a five-run lead heading into the bottom half of the inning.
Halton Hills, during their final turn at bat, had runners on second and third with one out, but mustered just one run off of an infield groundout.
“They came out with their good stuff today, we did too, and it was good ball game,” coach Kelly said, noting the lopsided Saturday night result was likely due to the pitching available as pitch counts are in effect at that age level.
Halton Hills won their three other games, but just couldn’t solve the Jacks.
Games were played in both Cobourg, at Donegan Park, and Port Hope, at Town Park, from Friday to Sunday. The Jacks opened the tournament with a 12-2 win over Bradford on Friday evening before defeating Belle River 12-7 and Halton Hills on Saturday.
Sunday morning, the Jacks earned an 8-6 win over Stratford before moving to face Halton Hills.
Kelly said he had a simple message for his players on Sunday.
“Worry about the individual stuff within the team and have some fun,” he remarked.
Team members this season were Jacob Bone, Chris Brydges, Andrew Eriksson, Parker Griffiths, Owen Hammond, Owen Hook, Jack Kelly, Ben Lynch, Ben McNee, Brayden Moore, Quinn Robillard, Brody Swayne and Sidney Wakely. The coaches are Gord Kelly, Ian McNee and Kerry Lynch.
Coach Kelly said the OBA championship win is the result of the hard work and dedication from the players that began back in the winter months.
“They challenged themselves early in the year, went to indoor workouts and this is what you get on Labour Day weekend,” he said.