Sinclair Yards played host to its first annual Open League Baseball Playoffs, this past weekend, August 19th-20th. This four-team tournament brought together and featured an onslaught of Sault Ste. Marie’s current and past baseball stars, all of whom seeking the coveted championship title.
Game one of the tournament pitted the #1 ranked Red Sox against the #2 ranked Junior Black Sox, with the winner earning an automatic birth to a winner-take-all Championship game (the loser would be sent to a relegation round). With neither team willing to give an inch, each club looked towards a bonafide starting pitcher to provide an edge.
Looking to ride a hot hand, the Junior Black Sox turned to veteran Jordan Trudeau, who entered the game on a 9 inning scoreless streak. The Red Sox countered with a former Black Sox player of their own, in right-hander Corey Jackson. Jackson, who many consider to be one of the top shortstops to play in the Soo over the last decade, provided a strong foil in pitching styles to that of Trudeau. Trudeau, a soft-throwing control pitcher, and Jackson, a hard-throwing power pitcher, each displayed a unique array of talent throughout the game.
The Black Sox managed to draw first blood, with Dana Lesage smacking a 2-out RBI single to cash Colton Read in the first inning. With the Sox carrying a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Red Sox’s Mike Bouchard came up to bat. Bouchard wasted no time at the plate, launching an absolute missile home-run an estimated 345 feet over the left field fence. Mike Bouchard, another Black Sox alumni, led the 2003 Black Sox with a .407 batting average.
Defense was a staple to this game, as both teams turned a combined 5 double plays in the contest. This included a crisp 4-6-3 double play by Carter Magee-Marenger and Colton Read, as well as a smooth transition by Ben Elliot at shortstop to flip one of the Red Sox’s double play balls. Jared Pine also picked up an outfield assist for the Junior Sox, relaying a ball off of the outfield fence with a strong throw to cut down Jake Lake as he tried to stretch a double.
With the game coming down to the wire, Dana Lesage managed to provide another spark for the Junior Sox. Leading off the top of the 7th inning, Lesage picked up his second hit of the game, this time off of reliever Ben Elliot. Dana would later come around to score, allowing to Junior Black Sox to close out the game with a 4-3 victory. Jordan Trudeau finished the night with a no-decision, going four strong innings of two-run ball. Colton Read picked up the win in relief, going three innings and striking out six.
Game two of the weekend saw the Tigers matched up with the Superior Auto Group Hellcats. With the Tigers missing slugger Jordan Pine, who is currently in Windsor aiming to return to his OCAA Champion St. Clair College baseball club, along with the absence of co-captain Adam Carricato, they faced an uphill battle. Especially when the Hellcats turned to ace lefty Cory Lelievre for the start on the mound. Despite falling behind early, the Hellcats cruised to a decisive 17-7 victory, ending a valiant season for the Tigers.
Game three featured the Red Sox matched up with the Hellcats; the winner earned a shot to face the Junior Black Sox in the finals. On the hill for the Red Sox was left hander Jake Lake, while the Hellcats turned to Brad Lefave. Lake, a former Black Sox alumni, is known for his hitting as well as his pitching, having batted over .300 back in 2009. Tensions ran high in the game, and with the Red Sox down 6-5 in the seventh, they had one last shot to send the game to extra innings. With the tying run on second base, Cory Lelievre struck out the game’s final batter, picking up the save for the Hellcats, while ending the season for the Red Sox.
Finally, the Championship game pitted the Junior Sox against the Superior Auto Group Hellcats. The Hellcats turned to the hard-throwing, former Finlandia University baseball player Pat Koski to start on the mound. The Sox elected to go with veteran junk baller Connor Henderson.
In the top of the first inning, the hellcats attempted a hit-and-run play. Jack Mcleod managed to run down a Mike Lefave fly ball in center field, then fired to first baseman Dana Lesage to turn the double play. Henderson followed up by striking out Pat Koski with a curveball to end the inning.
After reaching on a bunt in the bottom half of the first inning, Henderson followed up by stealing second base. Shortly after, the hot bat of Dana Lesage cashed in the run, giving the Sox the lead.
Afterwards, the Hellcats began brewing trouble in the third inning; to lead off the inning, Steve Dowding mashed a thunderous double. Dowding, who formerly coached the opposing pitcher Henderson during the 2013 season, couldn’t help but smile knowing that he bested his former player.
Later in the inning, with one man out and the bases loaded, Jack Mcleod came up big for the Sox once again. A fly ball to mid center field resulted in a brilliant catch and hose to turn a double play, throwing out Matt Hawdon at the plate to end the inning.
The Hellcats had no plans of laying down quietly however, with starting pitcher Pat Koski finding a groove in the third inning. Koski ended the night with an impressive six strikeouts over four inning of work, allowing only three hits.
With a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning, the Sox decided to shut things down. Colton Read was called on to pitch, having had great success in the latter half of the season. Read followed suit, cruising through innings four, five and six.
Cory Lelievre, the Hellcats hard throwing lefty, entered to pitch for the Hellcats in the fifth inning. He made quick work of the bottom half of the Sox order, picking up five strikeouts in 2 innings of relief.
With a two-run lead in the top of the seventh inning, the Black Sox corner outfield duo of Jared Pine and Noah Thomson showed off their speed. Each player made long running grabs to maintain the Sox lead. For the final out of the game, and the playoffs, Colton Read picked up his seventh strikeout.
The final score: Soo Black Sox 3, Superior Auto Hellcats 1.
With this, the Junior Black Sox picked up the Soo Open League Championship for 2016. This is the first time since 2010 where a Black Sox team has ended their season on a winning note.
This was an amazing and competitive season for each team of the Open League. Thank you for all the memories, and for everyone putting in their time in effort to make this season a success! We hope to see you all back on the field next year! Baseball in the Soo is back baby.