SUMMERSIDE – Pat McIver is hoping the Bedeque Blue Jackets may have reached the turning point in a disappointing season.
The Blue Jackets, who are 2-7 (won-lost) in the P.E.I. Midget Baseball League, advanced to the championship game of the Summerside Area Baseball Association (SABA) midget tournament on Sunday afternoon. The Metro Team One Mudcats, an amalgamated squad from Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe, N.B., prevailed 6-4 in the final game that went right down to the final batter.
“We know we have a good team,” said McIver, head coach of the Blue Jackets. “We have gone through quite a bit this year. One of our players got seriously hurt in a car accident, and we’ve been in a funk ever since.
“I think this will be a turning point for our season. We could have easily won this tournament, we have a lot of games this week and we are going into provincials (in a couple of weeks). I think we opened some eyes, and we’re going to be ready to go.”
The Blue Jackets went 2-1 (won-lost) in the round robin, dropping their opening game 4-3 to Amherst and then defeating Hampton, N.B., 7-0 and Kensington 6-2. Bedeque jumped out to a 3-0 first-inning lead and rode six solid innings from starter Brady VanderVelden in edging the Northside Lions from Morell 5-4 in one of two semifinals. Sam Jay came on to work the final inning for the save.
“I didn’t know what to expect going into the weekend,” said McIver. “I’m pretty proud of the way we played. We fought and clawed all weekend. We had some tough games. We played a good Kensington team and beat them, we played a good Northside team and beat them, we took these guys right to the bottom of the seventh and had the winning run at the plate.”
The Mudcats blanked the Summerside Team One Chevys 4-0 in the other semifinal.
In the championship game, played at Queen Elizabeth Park’s Legends Field on a warm Sunday afternoon, two infield singles with two outs on bang-bang plays at first base proved to be the difference.
The Mudcats were able to plate a pair of insurance runs on back-to-back squibblers in which the batter just beat the throw to first base. Those two runs increased Metro’s lead to 6-3.
The Jackets, though, refused to go quietly and staged a two-out rally in their last at-bat. Bedeque had the tying run on base and winning run at the plate when the Mudcats retired the game’s final out.
“The final game was one of the best games we have had all year, in New Brunswick or anywhere else,” said Mudcats head coach Darrell Christie. “We played well and I’m pretty happy with the outcome.”
Metro starter Jason Daigle worked 6 2/3 innings in picking up the victory. He gave up three earned runs and struck out seven. Ian Connors came on for the save.
“We’ve been working him (Daigle) all year into the late innings, letting him throw lots of pitches,” said Christie. “He is getting stronger every game, and we are very happy we could get that much out of him.”
Bedeque starter Nick VanderVelden threw six innings for the Blue Jackets, giving up four earned runs. Logan Robinson worked the seventh inning.
“We had great pitching,” said McIver. “In that championship game, we started Nick VanderVelden, who hasn’t pitched an inning all year.
“We are in a playoff race in our league, and I had to save Sam Jay for tomorrow (Monday) night against Stratford. He (VanderVelden) went in and gave us six solid innings. . . I’m proud of both VanderVeldens, they both pitched their hearts out and gave us a chance. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Offensively, Jeremy Steeves and Josh Ferrish each went 2-for-3 and drove in a pair of runs to lead the Mudcats, who also counted deuces in the second and third innings.
Grant Grady (3-3, two RBI) and Brady VanderVelden (2-3) were Bedeque’s top hitters. Bedeque counted three in the bottom of the second inning to take a brief 3-2 lead.
McIver said the big difference for the Blue Jackets was they played much better all-around ball over the weekend compared to recently.
“We played a lot better defence this weekend for sure,” said McIver. “We got contributions at the bat from top to bottom, and our big guys played like our big guys need to, and our defence was a lot better.”