Storybook season

Jason Simmonds
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Crusaders begin play in Atlantic midget championship Friday

KENSINGTON – The team that almost wasn’t can cap a storybook season this weekend.

The Kensington Crusaders will represent P.E.I. in the Atlantic midget AA baseball championship at Church Field in Morell, after pulling out thrilling back-to-back wins in the semifinal and final games of the Baseball P.E.I. provincial midget championship on Sunday.

“The old saying she’s not over till it’s over held true that day,” chuckled Crusaders head coach Dave Montgomery.

Enough players

However, the Crusaders’ story actually began last spring, when it was unknown if they would even have enough players for a team.

“We were just trying to get a bunch of guys together, there were no tryouts or anything,” said Kensington shortstop and pitcher Kyle Pinksen, who noted a lot of the players have played together for a number of years. “We just had 11 or 12 guys, put a team together and it ended up being a good team.”

In fact, Montgomery wasn’t even planning on coaching this year.

“They asked me if I would get a team together, and I wanted to see the kids play ball,” continued Montgomery. “We had to look around for enough players, and we have guys who hadn’t played for a couple of years who were eager to get their last year in.

“It’s nice to see them still playing.”

Slow start

After a slow start to the season, the Crusaders soared to first place in the P.E.I. Midget Baseball League in July, before cooling off in August and finishing the regular season in a second-place tie with Cardigan. Both teams were 10-6 (won-lost).

Things did not start off promising for the Crusaders in the provincial championship, dropping a 10-3 decision to the Morell-based Northside Lions in their opening game. Kensington then rode back-to-back outstanding pitching performances from Pinksen and Drew Grady in 6-2 and 4-2 must-wins over Summerside and Cardigan to qualify for the semifinals.

The Crusaders were trailing the Cornwall Cougars 8-1 and down to their final strike when they staged an improbable 11-run rally with two outs en route to a 12-9 semifinal win. Kensington then pulled out a 6-4 extra-inning win over the Charlottetown Royals in the final.

Open play

The Crusaders will open play at the Atlantics against the host Lions on Friday at 2:30 p.m.

“We were just trying to get a bunch of guys together, there were no tryouts or anything. We just had 11 or 12 guys, put a team together and it ended up being a good team.” Kensington shortstop and pitcher Kyle Pinksen

“Morell is a good team,” acknowledged Montgomery. “They beat us in the playoffs and we had two real close games with them, and I think the first one was extra innings.

“Our league was really well balanced as you saw by the way it ended on Sunday. Any of the teams could have been there.

“I expect we’ll be competitive with the teams from across.”

Windsor is the Nova Scotia representative, River Valley is from New Brunswick and St. John’s will represent Newfoundland and Labrador.

Doesn’t expect letdown

Montgomery, who acknowledged players are juggling baseball and hockey training camps this weekend, does not expect the Crusaders to have a letdown after last weekend’s emotional wins.

“The boys want to compete,” emphasized Montgomery, who noted a lot of the team’s players have previous experience playing in Atlantic championships. “We picked up a couple of extra players, and our pitching will be starting back fresh.”

The Crusaders have added Matt Barlow and Jayden MacLean of Summerside, along with Parker Gallant of Cornwall. Gallant previously played minor ball in Kensington while the Kensington/Cornwall bantam team picked up Barlow and MacLean for last year’s nationals.

“We went with people we are familiar with,” added Montgomery. “We have a lot of good athletes who can play almost any position.”

Twitter.com/JpsportsJason

When They Play

Kensington’s schedule at Atlantic midget baseball ch’ship:

Friday, Aug. 29

2:30 p.m. – vs. Northside Lions (Host).

Saturday, Aug. 30

9 a.m. – vs. Windsor (N.S.).

4:30 p.m. – vs. River Valley (N.B.).

Sunday, Aug. 31

11:30 a.m. – vs. St. John’s (N.L.).

Note: A tiebreaker or championship game, if necessary, will be played at 2 p.m. If a tiebreaker is required, the championship game will be played at 4:30 p.m.

Organizations: Church Field, P.E.I. Midget Baseball League

Geographic location: Atlantics, Kensington, Morell Summerside River Valley Nova Scotia New Brunswick

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