After years without enough players to field a bantam baseball team, the Lake Cowichan Lakers clinched the bantam A South Island championship in just their second year back in action with a 12-8 win over Peninsula at Lambrick Park last Friday.
The Lakers found themselves trailing 5-0 early in the game, but chipped away at Peninsula’s lead until they tied the score in the fourth inning. Peninsula added two more runs in the fifth, but Lake Cowichan pulled ahead with six more of their own.
"Then the great pitching by Nic Brown and Nolan Fothergill really closed the door," head coach Kelly Bergstrom said.
The win capped off a huge season for the Lakers, who went a long way together as a team.
"We started the year off with a loss and weren’t really sure where to go from there," said Bergstrom, who didn’t coach in 2013 because his son played spring hockey instead of baseball.
After a few games, with the help of assistants Jamie Svendsen and Bryan Hill, Bergstrom was able to slot his players into their best roles.
"Each game we learned more and more about each player, and learned from our wins and losses," Bergstrom said.
The Lakers finished the year with eight wins, four losses and one tie, but found themselves in a tough draw.
"We were put in three divisions, ours being the toughest as the Duncan/Ladysmith/Lake Cowichan division had the best teams," Bergstrom related.
The Lake Cowichan bantams made it through the first round with a division-best 4-0-1 record, with the top two teams advancing to the knock-out round.
The Lakers made quick work of Carnarvon, winning 14-4, but struggled to get their bats going in their next game, against Layritz. Trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Parker Bergstrom and Fothergill walked, and Logan Wiersma hit a long double to clear the bases, then found his own way home. With the score tied, Brown got on base and stole his way home, sending the Lakers to the final against Peninsula.
"We battled all year and learned a lot about these kids," Bergstrom said.
Bergstrom thanked his players’ parents for all their support.
"Most of them were at every game and brought grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles," he said. "Games became a real community event."
The Lakers are hoping to field bantam and midget teams next year.