Mustangs claim B.C. title in extra-innings thriller

Cole Anderson capped off a stellar pitching performance by batting home the winning run as the midget AAA Mustangs claimed the B.C. title.

Cole Anderson capped off a stellar extra-innings pitching performance by batting home the winning run as the midget AAA Cowichan Valley Mustangs claimed the provincial championship on Monday.

With the Mustangs and Burnaby Braves tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning of the final, Cam LeSergent led off with a double, Jayden Hamm was intentionally walked and Kale Eddy singled to load the bases. At that point, the Braves had to go to a new pitcher when starter Finn Kaczmarowski reached his daily limit — something Anderson had miraculously avoided. Anderson took advantage of facing a fresh arm and sent a line drive past the diving Burnaby first baseman to score LeSergent and capture the title.

“It was really a team effort,” head coach Mario Iannidinardo said. “We had 15 guys, and each one had a job to do, and they all came through. It was our first experience under the gun and in stress like that, and they definitely felt it, but they came through. Cole Anderson really clutched up.”

The entire game hadn’t gone so smoothly for the Cowichan team. They were up 2-0 after three innings, but Burnaby scored twice in the fifth, and the draw held through the end of the seventh, forcing extra innings. The Mustangs defence, which had been rock-solid all tournament, started to falter in the seventh when Burnaby’s leadoff batter got to first on an error.

“We tagged him out at second base and ended up with a one-two-three inning,” manager Tod LeSergent said. “But it sort of foreshadowed what the rest of the game was like.”

That pattern continued in the eighth. Burnaby’s leadoff batter again reached on an error, but was tagged out between first and second. The second batter got to first on another error, then was replaced by a pinch runner who stole second. The pinch runner tried to score on a single by Burnaby’s fourth batter of the inning, but was gunned down between third and home on Cam LeSergent’s throw from centre field to catcher Brady Radcliffe.

Those defensive heroics kept the window open for the Mustangs to score in the ninth.

At the end of the game, Cam LeSergent was 2-for-4 with a double, two runs and one RBI, Nolan Fothergill was 2-for-3 with one run and a steal, Kale Eddy was 1-for-3 with one RBI, Anderson was 1-for-4 with one RBI, and Riley Windsor was 1-for-1. Anderson remained on the mound for nine innings, striking out eight Braves while allowing just four hits and two walks.

The Mustangs opened the round-robin portion of the tournament in Richmond with a 5-1 win over the Victoria Eagles on Friday.

Anderson pitched all seven innings, striking out seven and surrendering four hits, while going 3-for-4 at the plate with a double and three RBIs. Windsor was 1-for-2 with two runs, and LeSergent, Radcliffe and Windsor each had two steals.

In a preview to the provincial final, the Mustangs defeated Burnaby 9-7 on Saturday. Hamm went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Brandon Langer hit 1-for-2 and also plated a pair, while Tanner Cummings had two steals and Andrew Strobl added one.

Nolan Fothergill started on the mound and earned the win with three strikeouts while allowing four runs and one walk over five innings. Langer and Dyson Kew each pitched one inning of relief.

Cowichan closed out the round robin with a 2-0 win over the Richmond City Chuckers. Hamm again led the Mustangs at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double, while Fothergill had the team’s only other hit, going 1-for-1 with both RBIs, and Jacob Montague had one steal.

Hamm was also the starting pitcher, and held the Chuckers hitless over two and one-third innings while striking out four. James McMahon earned the win with four and two-thirds innings of relief, striking out three and allowing one hit.

In the crossover semifinal on Monday morning, the Mustangs beat the South Fraser Giants 3-1. Both teams scored all their runs in the first inning. Cummings, LeSergent, Radcliffe and Montague had one hit apiece, Radcliffe and Kale Eddy each had one RBI, and Cummings stole one base.

Hamm pitched all seven innings, eight strikeouts, four hits, three walks.