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Capitals need to quickly get up to speed


The St. John’s Capitals hope to buck a trend of coming away with many more losses than wins at nationals when they take to the field at the Canadian senior baseball championship starting Thursday in Fredericton, N.B.

 

 

TEL-B01-25082016-Baseball-Caps-Butt-File-JG.jpg

Telegram file photo/Joe Gibbons

In this Aug. 23, 2014 file photo, members of the St. John’s Capitals, including catcher Gerald Butt (centre) celebrate after 4-3 win over Alberta’s Red Deer Riggers at the 204 national senior baseball championship at St. Pat's Ball Park in St. John’s. Wins have been tough to come by for the Capitals at recent senior Canadians. However, Butt says the difference between the Newfoundland champs and teams from other provinces isn’t that great and that any success the Caps hope to have at this year’s tournament, beginning today in Fredericton, N.B., mainly comes down to being able to adjust to the greater speed of pitches at the national level.

Since 2010 (the Caps did not play in the 2012 nationals in Prince George, B.C.), St. John’s has a combined 6-14 record in Canadian senior championship play.

St. John’s did manage to reach the quarter-finals in 2011, in Miramichi, N.B.

But in each of the last two seasons — at the 2015 Canadian championship, again in Miramichi, and 2014, when St. John’s played host to the nationals — the Caps were 1-3. They went 0-4 three years ago in Windsor, Ont.

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Although their record might indicate otherwise, St. John’s veteran Gerald Butt maintains the gap separating the Caps from some of the other teams entered in the tournament isn’t a wide as one would think.

The most noticeable difference, he suggested, is in the pitching department.

“(It) is the biggest thing,” said Butt, “and it’s simply because we facing harder throwers at nationals (than at the local level).”

In many cases, most of the top-flight pitchers at the Canadian championship have U.S. college or pro experience.

Last year, for example, Ontario outdueled Quebec 4-1 in the championship game in Miramichi. Joel Pierce, the winning pitcher, was a Milwaukee Brewers draft pick and farmhand. Rob Nixon, who got the save, was drafted by Cleveland and pitched in the Indians’ organization. For Quebec, losing pitcher Francois Lafreniere was a one-time Atlanta Braves draft pick and minor leaguer.

“With so many pro leagues and independent leagues now, you’re seeing fewer guys with pro experience (at the Canadian nationals), but they’re definitely still there,” Butt said.

“And those guys have some zip on the ball, in some cases 15 to 20 miles per hour in the difference.”

Butt, who himself was drafted, not once but twice, by the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees, said most of the pitchers in the St. John’s Senior Baseball League top out in the mid- to high 70s.

Young, hard-throwing Dan Connors, who is with The Bigs-sponsored Caps in Fredericton, might be in the 80s.

“The first couple of games at nationals, it’s almost like we have to play small ball and scrape together some runs until we adjust and get used to the speed of the pitching,” Butt said.

The Caps’ highlight last season was a 3-2 win over British Columbia. In 2014, at St. Pat’s Ball Park, St. John’s beat Alberta 4-3.

“The record might suggest otherwise, but we’re not a pushover at nationals,” Butt said.

The first two playoff games are slated for Saturday night. Gold- and bronze-medal games go Sunday.

 

rshort@thetelegram.com

 

St. John’s Capitals’ roster

Players

Dan Connors, pitcher

Matthew Murphy, pitcher

Scott Goosney, pitcher

Alex Walsh, pitcher

Sean Janes, pitcher

Kerian Buckingham, pitcher

Greg Barry, pitcher

Gary Dymond, catcher

Scott Stockley, catcher

Mike O’Neil, infield

Trevor Clarke, infield

Steve Crouse, infield

Parker Gulliver, infield

Gerald Butt, infield

Peter Madden, infield

Aaron Flood, outfield

Andrew Simmons, outfield

Dave Penney, outfield

Brent Power, outfield

Gerry Stone, outfield

James Walsh, outfield

Coaches

Sean Gulliver, head coach

Dan Reardon, coach

Gary Gulliver, chef de mission

 

Capitals’ senior national schedule

Thursday

9:30 a.m., St. John’s vs Ontario 1

3:30 p.m., St. John’s vs New Brunswick

Friday

9 a.m., St. John’s vs Alberta

Saturday

11:30 a.m., St. John’s vs Manitoba

 

 

 

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