TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
The Reston Rockets celebrate their Manitoba Senior Baseball League championship win after defeating the Neepawa Farmers 3-2 to win Game 7 of the final in Neepawa on Sunday evening.
NEEPAWA — If the Reston Rockets really are on their way out of the Manitoba Senior Baseball League, then what a way to go.
Elliot Desilets of the Neepawa Farmers tags out Andy Moore of the Reston Rockets as Moore dives into second base during Game 7 of the Manitoba Senior Baseball League championship series in Neepawa on Sunday evening. The Rockets won 3-2. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
The Reston Rockets celebrate their Manitoba Senior Baseball League championship after defeating the Neepawa Farmers 3-2 in Game 7 in Neepawa on Sunday evening. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
The Rockets held off the Neepawa Farmers 3-2 on Sunday night to rally from a two-game deficit and win the best-of-seven MSBL final four games to three.
The Rockets sent the league a letter during the playoffs, indicating they will withdraw next season due to a declining number of local players.
However, the MSBL champions represent Manitoba in the following year’s Canadian Senior AAA championship, and manager Ross Tycoles didn’t completely shut the door on a return in 2014.
"There’s a lot of pressure on us (to return)," Tycoles said.
"I think it comes down to a couple guys, what goes on. It’s still down to that one picture with six (local) guys there. It makes a big difference of how many of those guys will stick it out. I mean, we need those core guys from home to play and we’ll just see where that takes us."
The Rockets certainly played in the post-season like every game could be their last. Fourth in the five-team league during the regular season, they were forced to play in the first-round "survivor" series against the fifth-place Oak River Dodgers just to advance to the semis. Once they got there, they faced elimination against the Brandon Marlins, trailing the best-of-five series 2-1 before winning the final two contests.
In the final, they were quickly backed against the wall again by the Farmers, dropping three of the first four games before winning three straight to lock up their second title in three years.
A large part of the credit goes to pitcher Cole Stober, who tossed a superb six-hitter on Sunday, holding the Farmers hitless through the first six innings and being named Reston’s most valuable player for the playoffs. Stober said he wanted to win as a team or lose as a team, but he desperately wanted to have the ball in his hand for that final game.
"It meant the world to me," Stober said shortly after being doused with the celebratory water-jug shower by his teammates. "(Tycoles) asked me ‘Do you want to come throw this final?’ I was like ‘Yes, I’ll be there.’ … I just wanted to throw and get this win for Ross and the team. Our whole team wanted to get the win for Ross. It means everying to him; it means everything to us."
The Rockets backed Stober with just enough offence off of Farmers starter and playoff MVP Josh Loewen, who worked a solid 8 1/3 innings, scattering eight hits.
Cole Olson singled home Zane Sawyer in the top of the fifth enning and Andy Moore opened the sixth inning with a double before scoring on a Mitch Olson single.
Stober had faced the minimum number of hitters through six before the Farmers finally put together back-to-back hits in the seventh from Matt Lowry and Elliot Desilets. Stober got out of the jam, however, and the Rockets tacked on one more run in the top of the ninth as a limping Rory Tycoles, who hurt his leg trying to break up a double play earlier in the game, managed to poke a single into right field to drive home Mitch Olson.
"I was kind of swinging without either leg because I tore my other leg at the start of the year," Tycoles said.
"I was just thinking anything can happen once it’s in play. I happened to find a hole and that’s the fastest I’ve ever seen Mitch Olson run in my life."
The Rockets needed every bit of insurance in the ninth inning as Desilets and Kevin Levandosky hit RBI singles to close the gap to one before Stober got Ryan Cooper to fly out to end the game.
Farmers manager Mike Levandosky was disappointed in the loss, but not in his team’s effort.
"Our guys battled back," said Levandosky, who has guided the team to two runner-up finishes in a row. "It hurts to lose and I’ll go home and have a chat with my dog, and it’s not going to matter to her whether we won or lost, so the sun will rise tomorrow. We’ll be OK."
Ross Tycoles said he never intended for the news of the Rockets’ departure from the league to spread as widely as it did, but he admitted the desperation of playing with the entire team future on the line may have given his players some extra spark.
"There’s always that (thought that) this is our last time, we want to win. And that’s how I felt; I mean I’d rather go out a winner than losing this game and so either way, whatever happens, we’re champions."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 19, 2013