The Brandon Cloverleafs won the Manitoba Senior Baseball League championship series with a 4-1 win in Game 5 over the Neepawa Farmers last night in Neepawa. It's the fifth time in seven years the Cloverleafs have won the title.
(Charles Tweed/Brandon Sun)
The Brandon Cloverleafs once again proved they’re the class of the Manitoba Senior Baseball League, beating the Neepawa Farmers 4-1 Tuesday to win the best-of-seven championship series in five games.
It’s the fifth time in seven years the Cloverleafs have won the Cliff Seafoot Memorial Trophy.
"I’m relieved," said Cloverleafs manager Ryan Potter, who won his first title at the helm of the team after taking over from Dean McBride before the season. "We’ve been building all year and at the start we were struggling to get enough guys to play, but we added a few pieces and by the end I was very comfortable with the team we had."
"It’s harder," Potter said about winning the championship from the dugout. "When you can’t chip in on the field it is actually tougher having to watch, but at the same time it was just as rewarding and it to watch these guys do what they do. It feels good."
The Cloverleafs got big contributions from a familiar face, and a new face, in Game 5.
Sean Dryden, a stalwart on the mound for the ’Leafs over the past decade, cruised through 6 1/3 innings, giving up one run on three hits, while striking out seven and walking four. It was the second win of the championship series for Dryden, having changed the momentum of the series, by winning Game 2 after the Farmers claimed the first contest.
"This championship was special this time around after not having a very good showing last year," Dryden said." It took a little while to get to know each other, but once that happened there was no stopping us."
If Dryden was the familiar face for the Cloverleafs then Max Poulin was the new one — though hardly a rookie after playing 676 games with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern League from 2001 to 2008.
Poulin, up with two outs in the fourth inning, poked an offering from Farmers starter Josh Loewen, through the left side of the infield to score two runs and give Brandon a 3-0 lead.
"It was a really fun year," said Poulin, who finished 2-for-4 with a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored.
And after what some considered a down year for Poulin, who hit just .268 in the regular season, the 35-year-old Beauceville, Que., native came alive in the playoffs, hitting above .400 and scoring 11 runs for Brandon in the playoffs en route to being named the Cloverleafs playoff MVP.
"I didn’t save anything for the playoffs," Poulin said. "I just started to understand my role with the team. In the beginning, I was trying to do too much and trying to hit home runs and I never did that in my career so why start now. It’s the same game and once I concentrated on having good at-bats and getting on base things started really working and I became myself again."
In a hard fought series, for the Farmers it was a case of the bats going quiet at the most in-opportune time of the year.
"When the bats go cold it’s tough to play and we played aggressive all year, but if you aren’t hitting you can’t run and you can’t do a lot of things," Farmers manager Mike Levandosky said. "We’re built on speed and when you don’t get on you can’t really use it."
The Farmers may have fallen short of their ultimate goal, but the season still has to be considered a success, bouncing back from a last place finish last year to winning the league pennant with a 14-6 record this year.
"We should hold our heads high and we accomplished a lot this year. We played the game the way it’s supposed to be played and it just didn’t work out for us," Levandosky added.
The Farmers tried to mount a rally late, scoring a run in the seventh when Ian Hockin doubled to the right-field corner with one out.
The hit ended Dryden’s night, as he was replaced by Ryan Johnson. And although Johnson would walk the first batter he faced to load the bases, he promptly got Mark Kerkowich to ground a ball back to the pitcher that the ‘Leafs came home with to cut down the run, then struck out Matt Lowry to end the inning and the Farmers rally.
"We just couldn’t get clutch hits," Hockin said.
"We played well this year and we always seem to be one of the younger teams in the league, so it says something about how our younger players are adjusting to the league, but it’s just tough when it ends like this."
The lack of offence spoiled what was an otherwise good outing from Game 1 winner Loewen, who went six innings, giving up three runs on 11 hits, while striking out three and walking two.
Isaac Rodriguez was named the MVP for the Farmers.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 15, 2012