It’s said you have to learn how to lose before you can know how to win. On Sunday in Fredericton, N.B., players on St. John’s-based 3Cheers Pub put their collective knowledge of losing at the national senior men’s softball championship to the test and emerged as 2012 title-winners with a rain-shortened 5-0 victory over the defending champs from Kitchener, Ont.
In doing so, 3Cheers became the first team from this province to win the event.
“To be part of the first team to ever win gold is huge,” says player-coach Colin Abbott.
“You’ve got to get the first one out of the way and worry about others in the future. But there’s certainly enough talent here to put a string together.”
Like West Side Charlies at last year’s nationals in Owen Sound, Ont., and Roebothan McKay Marshall in the 2007 tournament here in St. John’s, 3Cheers went undefeated through the round-robin and the playoff round leading up to the championship game. However, unlike those previous years, when Newfoundland entries came up short in the final and were forced to settle for silver, 3Cheers was able to get the job done Sunday.
“We’ve had great teams before, but this one was just a little bit better,” Abbott says of a team that outscored their opponents 74-4 through nine games, collecting mercy wins in all but one, round-robin a 3-1 decision over Kitchener.
“Newfoundland is sometimes known for having a big bopper’s-type team, but this team gave up only three runs (in the round robin) and didn’t make an error. In my mind, that was as impressive as some of our hitting stats.
“I think our confidence grew as the week went on, such that we knew we could throw any combination of players and we were still (beating teams by the mercy rule.)”
Abbott, who was around for the 2007 upset, isn’t denying thinking about the previous championships ahead of Sunday, especially considering what happened in the past, but he insists they couldn’t let it overshadow what they had to do.
“We made sure everyone was focused, but also really relaxed to play. I didn’t feel like anyone was thinking too much about what happened last year of five years ago.”
Mullaley had a monster tourney
With heavy rain in the Fredericton area, Sunday’s championship game was limited to four innings. Sean Cleary pitched the win, with imports Jeff Ellsworth and Ian Fehrman hitting solo home runs. Newfoundlander Stephen Mullaley, who now calls Toronto home, also hit a home run — his 10th of the tournament.
“He got on a roll like I’ve never seen before at a championship. When he didn’t hit a home run, you were surprised,” Abbott says of Mullaley, who took top batter award and all-star team honours at first base, and then got the playoff-round MVP nod.
“It wasn’t like he was just dropping them over the edge. Everything he was hitting was a rope ... they were going 30 or 40 feet over the fence. It was quite amazing.”
Other 3Cheers members picking up awards were Cleary, who earned the championship game top player award and was also named to the tourney all-star team, along with outfielders Ellsworth and Brad Ezekiel.
Other members of the championship team are Ryan Boland, Shane Boland, Geoff Evely, Blair Ezekiel, Kyle Ezekiel, Justin Gill, Ward Gosse, Jason Hill, Mark Lewis, Sean Whitten, coach John Hill, assistant coach Lee Cose and manager Jerry Bruce.
Since 2005, Newfoundland has won three silver medals (2005, 2007, 2011), a bronze medal (2010), and posted two fourth-place finishes (2008, 2009) at Canadian senior men’s championship. In 2006, the province’s only entry finished sixth.
Mark’s Hitmen come away with bronze
3Cheers Pub wasn’t the only Newfoundland team to medal at the national senior men’s championships this weekend as the Imagewear Corporate Apparel Mark’s Hitmen claimed bronze.
The Hitmen posted a 5-1 record in the round robin, good for second place and a double life in the playoff round. After defeating the host Fredericton Twins 7-5 Friday night, the Hitmen used up their first life when they fell 8-0 to 3Cheers Saturday .
That left the Hitmen with a date against Kitchener, Ont., Cubs on Sunday morning with a berth in the championship game on the line.
But an all-Newfoundland rematch in the final was not to be.
In the semifinal game against Kitchener, import pitcher Jeff Farion started for the Newfoundland side and gave up six runs on five hits in the first inning as the Cubs trounced the Hitmen 9-1 in a game called after five innings on the tournament’s seven-run mercy rule. Mike Noftall (3R, 6H, 3K) came on and tossed four innings in relief.
Jon Kelly counted the Hitmen’s only run with a fifth-inning solo homer.
Hitmen second baseman Chris Murphy and Farion were both named tournament all-stars.
The Kelly’s Pub Molson Bulldogs, the third Newfoundland entry, finished in seventh with a 2-5 record.