St. John’s hosting first three games provincial senior final against defending champion Barons
It looks as though St. Pat’s Ball Park will be ready to go for the opening games of the Molson provincial senior A baseball final this weekend, and St. John’s Winmar Capitals player-coach Mark Healy is hopeful a return to the Carpasian Road diamond will help his team find its form as it looks to reclaim the title from the Corner Brook Barons.
“To be honest, I still think there’s a lack of hunger from the guys. Part of that is from winning so many years in a row,” said Healy of a Caps team that won 13 straight provincial crowns before last year.
“The core group who have been involved in the team are all grown up. There’s wives, babies and work.
“I’m hoping getting back to St. Pat’s is going bring a little bit of that hunger back.”
Since last fall, the facility has been undergoing upgrades for next month’s Canadian senior championships. As a result, both the St. John’s senior and intermediate leagues have been playing their games at Smallwood Park in Mount Pearl.
While Healy acknowledges the Mount Pearl field has also seen its share of upgrades as a secondary field for nationals, most everyone prefers to play at the old ball park in the heart of St. John’s.
“It terms of weather, it’s always windy in (Mount Pearl.) Down at St. Pat’s, you’re hitting away from the wind,” he said.
“And St. Pat’s has, to us anyway, a ball park feel. Mount Pearl is a big sports complex with high traffic, soccer fields and a skateboard park.”
Healy also figures that the quickly approaching nationals — set to begin Aug. 20 — and the availability of spots on the Caps’ final 21-man roster for the tournament should also “re-light a few fires for a few guys.
“I’m hoping those factors will bring some hunger back and the fact we did lose last year should open some guys’ eyes.”
The Barons shocked everyone with a 4-1 series win over the Caps last summer, thanks largely to strong pitching from young guns Mike Tavenor and Myles Vincent and a pair of wins from Pasadena native Scott Goosney.
“Typically, we’ve gotten really good pitching over the years, “ said Healy, “but offensively, we’ve always been a little stronger one through nine and last year, they shut us down. They pitched really well and that’s why they won.”
A year later, Goosney is calling St. John’s home and will toss the opening game for the Caps this Saturday at 1 p.m.
Healy said Goosney has established himself as one of the most talented and consistent hurlers in the province.
“Amongst his peers, the Bobby Kents and Mike Janes of the world, they’ve acknowledge it as well.
“He’s earned it.”
As for those open roster spots, Healy and co-coaches Troy Croft and Andrew Symonds will use them to add some middle relievers, likely youngsters Matt Murphy and Dan Connors, both of whom showed well in the senior B championships two weeks ago in Mount Pearl.
“They did it a couple times in Mount Pearl; one guy came in and pitched the sixth and the other guy came in and closed it out in the seventh,” said Healy.
“(But) the provincial championship is the priority, so I’m not going sacrifice the championship for tryouts, so to speak.”
Southpaw Greg Barry and righty Sean Janes will also play similar reliever roles on the team.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is set for Saturday 7 p.m., with Game 3 Sunday afternoon at 1 o’clock.
Healy says even though there’s some minor aesthetic work to complete at St. Pat’s before the nationals, this weekend would be an ideal time to come down and look at “the investment we’ve put into the park through a partnership with the city and all the people involved.”
Admission is just $2 per game and kids get in for free.
The series moves to Corner Brook for Game 4, and if necessary Games 5, 6 and 7 next weekend.