They’re sure signs summer is winding down: The days start getting shorter; stores hold their back-to-school sales; and the Brandon Cloverleafs hoist the Cliff Seafoot Memorial Trophy.
The Cloverleafs continued their remarkable run of Manitoba Senior Baseball League success on the weekend, bombing the Brandon Marlins 10-3 at Andrews Field to claim the league title for the sixth time in the last nine years and a record 16th time overall.
"The Marlins are a real good club and it’s a lot harder to win than it maybe looked tonight," said Cloverleafs manager Ryan Potter, whose team won the best-of-seven series 4-2. "But certainly we’re pretty proud of that moment and pretty excited to be MSBL champions again."
Trying to win their first title since 2008, the Marlins came to the ballpark hoping to be back for a seventh game, but instead they got two tickets to the Gun show.
Matt Gunning bombed a pair of key home runs for the Cloverleafs — a solo shot in the top of the first inning and a two-run blast in the fifth that stretched a one-run lead into a 5-2 advantage. The ’Leafs tacked on three more runs in the sixth inning, making the final result seem inevitable.
"It’s nice to score early in the game," Gunning said. "I think we scored runs in (six) innings tonight, so that’s always big and against a good pitcher, Paul Thompson, who really shut us down last time. It’s a good feeling."
Thompson was remarkable in his previous performance, limiting the Cloverleafs to one run and striking out 11 in 10 innings in Game 3, but he didn’t have the same effectiveness on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Cloverleafs handed the ball to veteran Matt Mutcheson for his first start of the season, and he responded with a workmanlike victory.
Pitcher Anthony Friesen was named the Cloverleafs’ most valuable player in the playoffs. He appeared in all four of his team’s victories in the final, earning the win in one of those games and adding the save in another.
Friesen believes the experience the Cloverleafs possess paid dividends as the games and the series stretched on.
"I’ve been around the league since I was probably 17," Friesen said. "(Sean) Dryden, Gunning’s got some experience. We’ve got a lot of older guys who have been here before, too, so that definitely helps out."
Pat Vandoorne was chosen the Marlins’ playoff MVP.
With the win, the Cloverleafs also locked up a spot as Manitoba’s representatives in next year’s Baseball Canada Senior AA championship. The Reston Rockets, who won the MSBL title last summer, will play in this year’s nationals, starting on Thursday in St. John’s, N.L. The Rockets have picked up six players from this year’s final: Friesen, Dryden and Gunning as well as Marlins Thompson, Ryan Boguski and Nolan Jago.