It was a long time coming, but the GW Vacuum Truck Service Young Guns are champions once again.
The Guns blew away their competition on Tuesday night, defeating the RFNOW Cardinals 9-1 in Game 4 and clinching the best-of-five Andrew Agencies Senior AA Baseball League championship title for the first time since 2016.
The Guns had a remarkable year, winning every game in their pandemic-truncated regular season and dropping only one game in the playoffs.
Young Guns’ starting pitcher Sean Dryden had a stellar night, throwing his second complete game of the series — something he hadn’t managed to do during the regular season.
"I was just waiting for the playoffs, I guess," Dryden said.
After Cardinals starting pitcher Joel Krentz gave up six runs in the first two innings, Jeff Wiebe took over pitching in relief of Krentz in the top of the third.
It became a pitching duel between Dryden and Wiebe, reminiscent of their times as pitching stars in the now defunct Manitoba Senior Baseball League.
Wiebe threw five strikeouts, but it was the 41-year-old Dryden and the Guns who came out on top.
"You never know what to expect when you arrive at the diamond … (the Cards) put up a great effort tonight and never gave up at any point. If it wasn’t for us scoring nine runs early in the game I think it would’ve been tighter than it actually was," said Dryden.
Like every other game in the series, the Guns came out blazing.
In the first inning, Mark Derlago and Justin Funk tallied an RBI each. Dryden followed up by pitching a three-up three-down bottom half.
The Guns’ nine runs were all scored by the fifth inning, with Garrett Popplestone, Jordan Robertson and Jason Rae each notching a pair of RBI.
The Cardinals’ lone run of the game came in the bottom of the seventh, when Danny Cochrane hit a powerful single that scored Jeff Neufeld from first.
The Cardinals won 4-3 in Game 1 of the series, but were stopped short by the Guns in every game after, with scores of 7-1 and 5-3 before Tuesday’s 9-1 blowout.
Last year it was the Cardinals who came out on top in a dramatic Game 5 victory. Entering the top of the seventh inning trailing 2-1 in last year’s final match, the Cardinals exploded for seven runs with two out, for an 8-3 victory over the Young Guns in Game 5, clinching the league title over the Young Guns for the second straight year.
"Just goes to show the effort they put in," Dryden said.
"They always come out ready to play and are like a thorn in your side. It was a short season, but it was nice to overcome that hurdle and have a little redemption from last year."
Considering a few months ago, Dryden thought there wouldn’t even be baseball to play, he couldn’t be happier with how this season turned out.
"Considering the circumstances going into the year, not knowing if you were even going to have a season, it feels good," he said. "Pretty much a flawless year, we got one loss the whole season. It’s pretty impressive when you could do something like that."
When Dryden got word that the baseball season would be going ahead, albeit on a shortened schedule because of COVID-19, he wasn’t 100 per cent sold on the idea of playing.
But, his two boys at home convinced him otherwise. His oldest son, Cooper, is 10 and already pitching.
"They were pushing me to get out to the ballpark, they were my motivation there for sure."
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