The Vincent Massey Vikings got the vindication they were looking for on Saturday at Andrews Field.
After falling in the quarter-finals at last year’s provincial high school baseball championship in Brandon, the Vikings came into this year’s event with one goal in mind: To win the school’s first provincial baseball championship. They did that in dominating fashion as the Vikings defeated the defending champion W.C. Miller Aces 12-2 in Saturday’s six-inning final.
“It was a pretty tough pill to swallow last year going out in the quarters, but I think we got our feet under ourselves this year and right from Day 1 got going and put the pedal to the metal,” said Clark Whelpton, who scored twice and hit a sacrifice fly in the final.
The Vikings had their bats working all weekend, averaging 10.8 runs per game, but their pitching is what set them apart. Massey allowed an average of 2.6 runs against in its five wins, and Mitch Lyall and Marshal Burgess were deadly in the playoffs.
Lyall threw a complete-game five-hitter as the Vikings beat the Boissevain Broncos 9-3 in the semifinals. Burgess followed that up with a complete-game five-hitter in the final. Both pitchers struck out eight in their respective games.
Lyall, a tournament all-star who was 2-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs in the final, believed it didn’t matter who Massey had on the mound, as they had faith in anyone who went to the hill over the weekend.
“We had RBIs coming from everywhere and pitching and defence was outstanding,” he said. “We knew we had a strong core group of guys and we were confident no matter who was on the mound. We were confident in each other, and that’s a big thing on a championship team is that everyone is confident in each other.”
Burgess, the tournament MVP, went 2-for-3 in the final with three runs scored, while Jordy Stallard was 1-for-3 with three RBIs.
Nate Smith took the loss for the Aces, who have won four provincial banners in 10 years and beat the Westwood Warriors 2-0 in their semifinal. Smith gave up four runs on four hits in three innings before giving way to Josh Friesen, who was lit up for six runs in the fourth. Cole Kehler was 1-for-3 with a run and an RBI for the Aces.
Burgess went 4-for-4 with two runs and an RBI in the semifinals for Massey, while Brad Schoonbaert was 3-for-3 with an RBI.
Aaron Pugh took the loss for Boissevain after going four innings, allowing six runs and 11 hits. Jordan Foote drove in Skylar Canada, Jay Pringle and Carter Cowlthorp with a base-loaded double in the sixth.
Cowlthorp as well as Stallard and Jordan Robertson from Massey and Dauphin’s Mitchell Popiel were named all-stars.
The Vikings will end their season on Friday with the Prairie West league playoffs and Whelpton, Reid Stallard, Brett Kitt and Tyler Gutenberg, who are all in Grade 12, will try to cap their high school careers with their second title.
If it doesn’t happen, Whelpton admits being a part of Massey’s first-ever provincial high school baseball championship team and winning it at home is a great way to go out.
“Home crowd, a lot of buddies from school cheering you on, it’s just a great environment to be in,” said Whelpton, who is looking at playing in Australia next year. “It was such a surreal moment those last few outs, just counting down my last few outs there. It was great to be a part of and I’m really proud of the boys. We pulled through in the end.”
LINE DRIVES: Deloraine/Hartney beat Killarney 8-1 in the Prairie West league fifth-place game on Sunday. Mitch Dillabough struck out 12 in five innings for the Colts, while Torin Howarth took the loss for the Raiders.