Perennial champs trail Barons 3-0 in best-of-seven series; Game 4 this afternoon in Corner Brook
© Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Bon Kent, shown pitching in Game 1 of the Molson provincial senior baseball semifinal last Saturday at St. Pat’s Ball Park in St. John’s, gets the start for the St. John’s Capitals in a do-or-die Game 4 against the Corner Brook Barons this afternoon at Jubilee Field in the west coast city.
By Kenn Oliver
Veteran first baseman Andrew Symonds can’t remember the last time, if ever, the St. John’s Winmar Capitals faced a deficit in the best-of-seven Molson provincial senior A baseball championships.
“In the early 2000s, we had one or two Game 7s against (the Corner Brook Barons) in some pretty awesome series, but to actually be down a game or two or three, I don’t recall,” said Symonds.
So being down 3-0 to Corner Brook after last weekend’s opening games at St. Pat’s Ball Park is, needless to say, unfamiliar territory for the Capitals, winners of 13 straight provincial titles.
Symonds insists it wasn’t a matter of St. John’scomplacency or that they took the Barons for granted, the Capitals “just ran into a hot team.”
“They came through with clutch hits when they needed to, they worked the counts, they got base runners,” he said.
“They deserve to be up 3-0.”
When the series resumes this afternoon at Jubilee Field in Corner Brook, Symonds says the biggest needed area of improvement for the Capitals is at the plate.
“You look through our lineup and we can roll out five or six different looks in terms of our batting order, and these are the best of the best in our St. John’s league, all quality hitters,” Symonds said of the St. John’s roster.
“To score (only) two runs in Game 2 and two in Game 3 is just not good enough.”
St. John’s’ ace pitcher Bob Kent, who tossed a no-decision in a series-opening 5-4 extra-innings loss, said frustration played a part in the hole the Capitals have dug for themselves.
“You start swinging at pitches you wouldn’t normally swing at, just trying to do a little too much,” Kent said.
The Capitals’ lack of offense came as more of a surprise than the Barons’ ability to compete.
“They’ve got a strong core and they’ve got some good young guys coming up, especially with their pitchers,” suggests Kent.
“(Michael) Tavenor threw a great game and they got a good game out of pick-up A.J. Whiffen.
“We haven’t faced that kind of pitching from them in a long time.”
Kent, who will start Game 4 this afternoon, says the entire Capitals’ pitching staff needs to turn in a better overall effort if St. John’s is to make something of this weekend.
“A lot of times, their first batter got on with a walk or a base hit and we were scratching and clawing to have clean innings,” he said.
“We didn’t have many of them.”
With St. John’s playing host to next year’s Canadian championships, it’s Corner Brook which has the most to lose if they are unable to finish off the Capitals this weekend.
As hosts, the Capitals have an automatic berth in the national tournament, but Baseball Newfoundland and Labrador decided at recent meetings that if St. John’s wins a 14th straight All-Newfoundland crown, the other finalist wouldn’t necessarily earn the berth as provincial representative at the nationals.
If the Caps do manage to come all the way back and retain the crown, BNL will meet in the fall to decide whether it will be the Barons or a specially-created a provincial all-star team which will go to the Canadian championships..
However, should the Barons prevail at home this weekend they will go in as provincial reps and have the right to retain all the players on their roster.
For the time being, the Caps are concerned only with Game 4 and keeping the streak alive.
“You go on any streak like that and it has to end eventually, but I’d like for it to keep going for another couple of years,” says Symonds.
“It’s not going to be easy, but it would be quite the story if we can pull it off.”