Just ask Newfoundland and Labrador’s bantam boys baseball team, which was hit hard between the eyes by both of those realities over the weekend at the 2017 Ray Carter Cup national under-15 baseball championship in Summerside, P.E.I.
The Newfoundland team officially finished 10th, but was just one out away from playing for a medal at the tournament.
Here’s how it happened — or perhaps didn’t happen — for Team N.L.:
This was a weighted, two-tiered event, with British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in the higher-seeded top tier and the rest of the provinces — including Newfoundland — in the bottom tier.
The teams finishing first and second in the top tier — in this case, Quebec and Ontario — advanced directly to Sunday’s seminal. The third-place finisher in the top tier (New Brunswick) played the second-place finisher in the bottom tier (Nova Scotia) to determine one of the other semifinalists.
The final semifinal berth went to the first-place team in the bottom tier. That turned out to be Saskatchewan, but it could have easily been Newfoundland.
Heading into its final round-robin game Saturday against Alberta, Newfoundland had a 2-1 record based on wins over Saskatchewan and Manitoba and a loss to Nova Scotia. Saskatchewan had already finished its schedule and would have been tied with N.L. with 3-1 preliminary-round records if the Newfoundlanders beat Alberta. However, in those circumstances, it would have been N.L. that would have earned first place based on its win over the Saskatchewan.
And that’s the way things looked to be falling late in the Newfoundland-Alberta game. N.L. was leading 4-2 heading into the top of the seventh and final inning, and was one out away from victory and a place in the semifinals when the Albertans turned three walks, a single and two wild pitches into a trio of two-out runs to take a 5-4 lead.
Steven Abbott of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, Newfoundland’s lead-off batter in the bottom of the seventh, reached first on a single, but was erased on a double play.
A third out followed, meaning medal hopes disappeared completely.
What’s more, even though Newfoundland finished the round-robin with a 2-2 record, the same as Nova Scotia and Alberta, it wound up in fourth place in the bottom tier because its losses came against those two teams. That meant relegation to the 9th-10th game Sunday morning against Manitoba.
Those same two teams had met in the preliminary round Friday, with Aaron Clarke of Conception Bay South striking out seven batters in a complete-game pitching performance as Newfoundland won 3-2.
But in Sunday’s rematch, Manitoba prevailed 1-0.
For N.L., it was another tough loss to end what turned out to be a tough tournament.
On Sunday, Brayden Lockyer of Corner Brook struck out eight batters and allowed just four hits and two walks over six innings, but gave up a sixth-inning run that proved to be the difference.
It didn’t help that Newfoundland bats, which had rapped out 32 hits and produced 20 runs in the province’s first four contests, went cool in Sunday’s game. Only Lockyer and fellow Corner Brooker Brogan Walsh managed hits against Manitoba pitching.
Jacob Reid of St. John’s took over on the mound in the seventh inning, striking out two batters and giving his team a last chance to extend or even win the game.
And it looked like there was a chance that might happen after Abbott reached base on an error, Alex French of Conception Bay South got on first after being hit by a pitch and those two eventually advanced to third and second and scoring positions. But a couple of strikeouts later, they were stranded and the contest — and for N.L. a frustrating championship — was over.
Quebec and New Brunswick played in the gold-medal final Sunday, while Saskatchewan met Ontario for the bronze.