MORELL – Dave Montgomery remembered back to a cold and wet night in Freetown when addressing the Kensington Crusaders for the final time.
The Crusaders lost their regular-season opener to the Bedeque Blue Jackets on that May evening, which included occasional flurries, but put together a year to remember en route to advancing right to the last game of the season – the final of the Atlantic midget AA baseball championship on Sunday afternoon.
This all from a team that wasn’t sure it would have enough players, or even a home field, back in the spring.
“I told them to remember back to that first game of the year back in Freetown, and if I would have said to them then that they would win a silver at the Atlantics they would have taken it without question,” said Montgomery. “We had quite a season.”
The St. John’s Capitals, who finished the three-day tournament a perfect 5-0 (won-lost), made sure there would be no storybook finish for the Crusaders, who rallied for dramatic wins in the semifinal and final games of the provincial championship tournament, and went into the final day of the Atlantic championship undefeated at 3-0.
The Crusaders and Capitals met in a meaningless game to conclude the round robin on Sunday morning, knowing in advance they would go head-to-head after that in a winner-take-all final.
The Capitals scored a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to win the round-robin game 9-8, and then jumped out in front early and never looked back en route to an 11-1 win in five innings in the championship game.
“After playing the nothing game and both teams being flat, I figured that if one team jumped out to a lead it would be tough for the other team to come back,” said Montgomery. “It was one of those games!
“Every time we hit the ball hard it was right at someone. For example, the first batter of the game for us, Riley Gallant, hit the ball hard to right field and their right-fielder made a heck of a catch.”
Andrew Paul, who was named the tournament’s top pitcher, tossed a two-hitter for the Capitals and kept the Kensington bats off balance throughout the final.
Parker Ronahan, who was named the tournament’s top hitter with a .700 average, had both hits for the Crusaders in the final.
Kyle Pinksen, a key contributor to Kensington’s run on the mound, in the field and at the plate, was the losing pitcher. He was relieved by pick-up Jayden MacLean of Summerside.
The Capitals loaded the bases in the bottom of the first inning with no outs, but Pinksen was able to limit the damage to only one run on Redmond Hunt’s sacrifice fly to centre field. Hunt was named the tournament’s most sportsmanlike player.
Parker Gulliver’s two-run single with two outs keyed a three-run second inning, and the Capitals went on to build a 10-0 lead after four innings.
The Crusaders scored their lone run in the top of the fifth inning. Ronahan singled, stole second and later scored on a Matt Crozier sacrifice fly to centre field.
That was all the offence the Crusaders could muster off Walker, who benefited from strong defensive play by his teammates.
“They were a very solid team, made all the plays in the field and did not allow us to get back in the game,” said Montgomery.
Daniel Rice of the Capitals was named the most valuable player of the Atlantic championship.
Montgomery recognized the efforts of Gian Martinson and Mike Richards of the Summerside Area Baseball Association in helping secure the Crusaders time at Legends Field for their home games on Monday nights.
“We weren’t even sure we were going to have enough players for a team,” explained Montgomery, “but once we did know we were, I was scrambling to find a field for us to play on (because Kensington’s fields are too small for midget baseball).
“Gian and Mike were a real big help in helping us get field time in Summerside.”
The Crusaders finished the regular season in the P.E.I. Midget Baseball League in a second-place tie with Cardigan at 10-6.
Parker Ronahan of the Kensington Crusaders was named the top batter of the Atlantic midget AA baseball championship tournament. Ronahan takes a swing at a pitch while St. John’s Capitals catcher Redmond Hunt is ready to receive the pitch during Sunday afternoon’s gold-medal game at Church Field in Morell.
©Jason Simmonds/Journal Pioneer