One week after they finished second at the provincial bantam AA baseball championships, the Cowichan Valley Mustangs matched that result at the qualifying tournament for the Western Canadian championships.
The biggest highlight of the qualifying tournament for the Mustangs was the semifinal, in which Cowichan crushed Ladner 14-4 as Mateo Iorio pitched a complete game and swatted a grand slam, and Isaac Leik completed two hotbox double plays in the same game.
That victory set up a championship showdown with the host Ridge Meadows Royals, which the Mustangs lost 10-0.
“We had momentum carrying into the final, but we came up against a super strong Ridge Meadows team,” head coach Mike Rochon recalled. “They had this one pitcher — we hadn’t seen anyone throw that hard before.”
Cowichan had played Ridge Meadows before, losing two exhibition games in late June by much closer scores. But this time it was a different story.
“We got beat by a better team, but the boys played some pretty exceptional ball,” Rochon said.
The Mustangs’ biggest bright spot in the final was a double by Hunter Livingston, but Rochon admitted his team was outmatched by a Royals team that dominated AA play all season and probably would have fared well at a higher level.
“Clearly, looking at the team, they would have been right in the middle of the pack in the AAA division,” the coach said.
Between their silver-medal finishes at provincials and at the qualifying tournament, the Mustangs packed a lot of good baseball into a short period of time.
“The kids played great two straight weeks in a row,” Rochon emphasized. “That was a lot of ball for them, and they only had two days off between the tournaments.”
Cowichan opened the qualifying tournament with an 8-6 loss to Burnaby on Friday morning, but bounced back to dismantle Tri City 12-1. On Saturday, they beat North Langley 16-6, and on Sunday they clobbered Cloverdale 8-3 to set up Monday’s semifinal against Ladner.
“All in all we were proud of the boys,” Rochon said. “They played great baseball all season.”
The bantam AA Mustangs played 60 games in 2016, finishing with 39 wins, 20 losses and one tie. They also practiced more than 90 times.
“Playing all those games is what we need to do to complete against Lower Mainland teams,” Rochon related.