By Josh Howald
Maybe it was last week’s game against university students, or maybe it was playing five games in a 48-hour span – but either way, the Cubs are feeling old.
“We just aren’t as young as we used to be,” said infielder Greg Stepaniak after his Cubs were eliminated from the Ontario Baseball Association (OBA) provincial D championship tournament in Sarnia on the weekend.
“Overall, it was a fairly successful tournament for our team. We were one of the last three teams standing, which we should be proud of,” he said.
“A few lapses on defence, a few too many walks and injuries were the difference. We’re starting to become one of the older teams at the tournament, which leaves us prone to injury. Those left some of our key players on the bench during significant parts of games.”
Kincardine kicked things off at the OBA D tournament in Sarnia on Friday night. After jumping out to a 5-1 lead, the Cubs held on for a narrow 6-5 win with pitcher Adam Marseilles going the distance.
Saturday morning, the Cubs jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Leamington early, but Leamington scored three runs in the third inning to go up by a run. It remained 3-2 until the bottom of the seventh (tournament play is just seven innings), when catcher John Campbell laid down a squeeze bunt to score Chris Inkster. Brian Maas then scored from second on a throwing error by the Leamington pitcher for a 4-3 walk off win. Ryan Fraser picked up the win, also throwing a complete game.
The next game saw the Cubs face Harrow, who defeated Kincardine twice in 2011 to end the Cubs season. Some fine pitching shut out the Cubs, and Harrow took a 1-0 win. Fraser pitched a great game on the hill, with the game’s only run coming in on an error. The loss meant Kincardine had to play Leamington again, this time in an elimination game. Veteran John Dupuis took the ball to the mound and pitched a complete game for the win in a game that featured several controversial calls. Coach Dave Dunlop was ejected from this game following a blown call at first base. Kincardine led for the duration of this game, until the sixth inning when Leamington tied the score. The Cubs scored one in the sixth and another run in the seventh to go up 8-6. Leamington got one back in the seventh, but Dupuis shut the game down with the tying run standing on second base.
An undefeated Barrie team was next for the Cubs. The Cubs struck early, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning. However, Barrie answered chipped away at Inkster and held a 6-3 lead by the fourth inning. Kincardine scored one in the fourth, and another in the fifth to make things interesting, and had runners on first and second base with one out in the seventh. It looked like Kincardine would tie the game on a Mark Richards line drive over the shortstop’s head, but the Barrie shortstop stepped back and timed his jump perfectly for a great snag, and then doubled off the runner on second base to end the game.
“It was a great play to end the game – unfortunately it wasn’t by us,” said Stepaniak. “Our bench was sure the ball was going to drop.”
With the win, Barrie advanced to the OBA championship game against Harrow. Harrow would have had to beat Barrie in back-to-back games to win the title, while Barrie had to win just once.
The Cubs can now play only for a Thames Valley Senior Baseball League title. That tournament will be held this weekend in Mitchell, and Kincardine will face the Oakridge Reds in a Friday night affair. Oakridge beat a shorthanded Kincardine team 10-5 in the final game of the regular season, but finished behind the Cubs in the standings.