Heads-up base running by Marshal Burgess proved to be the difference in a tightly contested Prairie West High School Baseball League championship game on Friday at Andrews Field.
The Vincent Massey Vikings centre-fielder and pitcher took advantage of a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning to advance to third base and then scored when three Boissevain Bronco players went after a Mitch Lyall pop-up in foul play in front of Massey’s dugout and nobody covered home plate after the ball was caught.
It was one of the strangest walk-off sacrifice flies in a high school baseball game, but Burgess was just happy for Massey’s 3-2 extra-inning victory.
"In a game like this, you have to be ready for anything," he said. "You see an opportunity like that, you have to pounce on that and we certainly did."
Burgess finished the game 0-for-2 at the plate, but reached base twice when he was hit by Bronco pitcher Jay Pringle.
Burgess, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound Grade 11 student came around to score on both occasions. Clark Whelpton drove him home with a groundout in the first.
Jordy Stallard scored Massey’s other run off a Brett Kitt single in the fourth. It was the only hit Massey managed all game.
Jay Pringle and Skylar Canada scored Boissevain’s runs in the fourth on singles by Jordan Foote and Brandyn Janssens, respectively.
Pringle took the loss on the mound, and it was tough for him to swallow. The Grade 10 student threw a complete game one-hitter, but five walks, two hit batters and a fielding error proved to be the undoing of the Broncos.
"This year to come second is really close and we had them on the ropes for a little while," said Pringle, whose team beat the Dauphin Clippers 3-0 in the league semifinals earlier in the day.
Massey beat the Virden Golden Bears 9-3 in the other semifinal.
Burgess not only scored the winning run for Massey, he also got the win on the mound. He came on in relief of Whelpton in the sixth and gave up five hits, with two strikeouts. Some solid defence, however, got him out of jams in each inning.
Burgess struck out Foote, and Pringle was caught stealing third on the same play in the sixth. Burgess then survived having runners on first and third with two outs in the seventh.
In the eighth, Boissevain had runners on second and third with one out, but Pringle got thrown out at home on a groundball, and then Jordan Robertson fired it back to third to catch Canada trying to advance a base to end the inning. Burgess stepped up on the basepaths after that to play hero.
"I obviously didn’t have my best stuff, but my defence helped me out there," he said. "When you have defence like that, it’s pretty easy to throw strikes because you don’t have to pitch around people and can give them strikes and let the D help you out."
Whelpton started for Massey and gave up two runs on four hits in five innings.
Pringle and Canada both went 2-for-4 with a run for Boissevain, which lost to Massey in the provincial semifinals last weekend.
Friday capped a great season for the Vikings. They also won the provincial championship last week and dropped just one game all season.
The team could be tough next season too as the Vikings lose only four players to graduation along with Burgess, who is heading to the Okotoks (Alta.) Dawgs Baseball Academy in January.
Massey coach Faron Asham wasn’t looking that far ahead after Friday’s final and was just proud of his players for their accomplishments.
"This was a group that had some work to do at the beginning of the season," he said.
"They pledged themselves to each other that they were willing to put in the work and it shows if you’re willing to put in the work and you have the skill to go with the hard work then good things will happen. This was a good team and good things happened to it."