It will be another St. John’s Capitals-Corner Brook Barons provincial senior A baseball final again this summer, a prelude to at least one game at the senior nationals slated for the middle of next month in St. John’s.
The Caps earned the right to play the Barons with a win at the provincial senior B baseball championship over weekend at Mount Pearl’s Smallwood Ball Park, going 4-0 in the three-team tourney which also included the host Blazers and Grand Falls-Windsor Beothucks.
Because of its perfect record, St. John’s needed to be beaten twice for the B crown. Only one game was needed, however, as the Caps pulled out a close 3-2 decision Sunday afternoon.
That sets up another chapter in the lengthy Caps-Barons rivalry, one that dates back to the 1950s. The best-of-seven provincial senior A final begins Aug. 1 with three games at the home of the Caps, with the final four games — the latter three if necessary — at Corner Brook’s venerable Jubilee Field starting Aug. 8.
Whether the series opens at St. Pat’s Ball Park in St. John’s, or the Smallwood diamond in Mount Pearl is uncertain. That’s because the old ball park on Carpasian Road is undergoing an extensive, if not long overdue, facelift for the Canadian senior championship starting Aug. 20 in St. John’s, and it might not be ready in just under two weeks’ time.
Both the Caps and Barons are entered in the nationals, and that’s because Corner Brook won the provincial championship last summer, ending a 13-year St. John’s domination of the senior division.
The hope all along was to have two Newfoundland teams in the senior nationals, with one team — the host club — comprised of the best senior-level ball players from across the province.
Corner Brook, at the provincial baseball association’s annual meeting last year, disagreed with that plan, and given the Barons’ win at the 2013 provincials, will enter as a club team in the nationals. The Caps are still the host team, and can still add players from other centres across the province, but with the exception of Corner Brook.
“To be fair, they won last year and they earned the right to play in the nationals,” veteran St. John’s first baseman Andrew Symonds said of the Barons’ entry in the Canadian championship. “But when you consider the (limited) player pool we have, it would make sense to have one team with the best players.
“One team would increase our chances of making some noise, but still, we have a lot of experience and we’ve had some good showings at nationals. There have been a couple of 0-fers, but we’ve certainly been competitive, for the most part.”
The Caps have reached the quarter-finals a number of times, and just a couple of years ago dropped a 1-0 decision to Ontario in the bronze-medal game in Dartmouth, N.S.
Sunday’s B final in Mount Pearl was a dandy game, one that featured a fine pitching duel between Scott Goosney of St. John’s and the Beothucks’ A.J. Whiffen, who during the winter stops pucks for senior hockey’s Cataracts.
St. John’s won it in the sixth inning with a pair of runs after Grand Falls-Windsor jumped out to a quick start with two runs in the first.
With one out, Gerald Butt got things going for the Caps with a bunt single. An error by the Beothucks’ Steve Kelly on a ground ball by Cory Ewart put runners at first and second, and then the Caps pulled off a double steal. After Ron French struck out, Ryan Hodder walked to load the bases and James Walsh stepped to the plate, delivering a base hit to right field, scoring two runs.
“I don’t think this all-Newfoundland final will have any more bragging rights than years past,” Symonds said, “but certainly, we’ll be hungry after losing last year.”
Goosney got the win, spinning a six-hitter over seven innings. He fanned two, and didn’t walk any batters. Whiffen also allowed only six hits, and struck out three. He surrendered only one free pass.
French was the Caps’ top batter with two hits.
Both Grand Falls-Windsor and Mount Pearl finished 1-3, but the Beothucks got the nod to play the Caps because they allowed the fewest runs against in their games against the Blazers.
Those teams split their two meetings, an 8-6 win for Mount Pearl and a 9-4 decision for Grand Falls-Windsor.
Goosney was the tournament’s top pitcher, while the Dave Parsons of St. John’s was the MVP with an eight-for-16 showing at the plate. Donnie Murray of the Beothucks was the top batter, going six-for-10.