B.C. champs! Duncan RiverCats are No.1

The RiverCats are headed for Speedy Creek.

Aftertak ing the provincial title at the peewee AA provincial baseball championships in Port Coquitlam last weekend, the Duncan RiverCats are bound for Swift Current , Sask atchewan, where they will suit up as Team BC in the Western Canadian Championships.

"The little team from Duncan did okay," said assistant coach Western Higbie.

The provincial final was a rematch against Chilliwack, who beat Duncan in the teams’ final round-robin game. The game got off to an inauspicious start for the RiverCats, who had the bases loaded with none out in the top of the first inning, but weren’t able to score. They then gave up three runs in the bottom of the inning.

The RiverCats got those runs back in the top of the third thanks to singles by Jackson Stephen, Connor Caskenette and Hayden Plester, then took the lead in the top of the fourth when Brody Deverill singled and made it home on a single by Morley Scott.

Chilliwack tied the score again in the bottom of the fourth, but in the top of the fifth, Mike Arscott singled, stole second and third, and then was brought home by Stephen, and the RiverCats held the lead once again. They added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh as Caskenette and Plester singled and were brought home by Gavin Pringle and Arscott.

Billy Ramwell, a.k.a. "the Iceman," closed out the game, striking out the last two Chilliwack batters to secure the 7-4 win and the B.C. championship.

"When we won, it was gloves in the air, hats in the air, lots of hugs all around," Higbie said. "They captured the moment and really appreciated it."

The RiverCats had previously played Chilliwack in their final round-robin game. Both teams went in with 3-0 records and had already qualified for the playoffs.

The RiverCats got two solo home runs from Matteo Iorio and one from Caskenette, and excellent pi tching f rom Ramwel l, Scot t and Pringle, but ended up on the wrong side of a 5-4 final score.

"We didn’t hit the ball well at all," Higbie said. "Actually, we were pretty sloppy. I think it was because the kids knew we were already in it."

The semifinal against Vernon was, in Higbie’s view, the best game of the tournament.

The RiverCats scored first after Arscott singled, stole a base and made it home on a hit by Stephen. In the second, Josh Hill singled, stole second, then scored on a hit by Luc Wilson. Duncan gave up a run in the bottom of the second, Arscott scored again in the top of the third on another RBI for Stephen, and it was 3-1 after the third.

Vernon made it 3-2 in the fifth, but the RiverCats added another run in the top of the sixth when Stephen walked, then stole second, and finally scored on a single by Ramwell.

Then Vernon went ahead 5-4 with a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth.

"That just crushed our kids," Higbie said.

It wasn’t over yet, however. Hill singled in the top of the second, s tole second and thi rd, then scored on Scott’s single to tie the game. After a scoreless bottom of the seventh, the game was on to extra innings.

In the top of the eighth, Pringle – who struck out 14 Vernon batters over the first five innings – singled and stole second, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Stephen. Ahead 6-5, the RiverCats turned to Ramwell, the "Iceman," who pitched his four th strikeout of the game before fielding a grounder for the final out.

"It was very exciting to win against Vernon because we had been down. We came back by doing what we do best, which is hit the ball."

The RiverCats took home two individual awards as Pringle was named the top pitcher and Stephen was honoured as MVP.

For Westerns , the RiverCat s will be joined by Connor Hall and Brodie Comerford, two players f om Campbel l River, the most sport smanlike team at provincials.

The RiverCats are the first peewee AA team in the history of Duncan baseball to win provincials, and the first Duncan team to go to Westerns since the bantam AA team did so in 2005, where they won the tournament a year after a combined Ladysmith/Chemainus team did the same.

Head coach Ken Ramwell, who coached a bantam girls fastpitch team to Westerns two years ago, noted that none of his players were named to Team BC af ter spring tryouts, but will still be representing the province.

"I’m more happy for the kids than for any of us," he said.

Steve Bossons , an assistant coach with the RiverCats, was part of the bantam AA team that won Westerns nine years ago, and admits it’s exciting to be going as a coach after experiencing the tournament as a player, and he believes this team has what it takes to win.

"Absolutely. In talking about strategy with them, we made comparisons with the 2005 teams a lot," he said. "We had a handful of superstars, but this team is better top-to-bottom, one-to-12. You can put pretty much anyone anywhere and have success."