Playing some of their best baseball this year, the peewee Cowichan Valley Mustangs reached the semifinals of the John Maine Tournament in Aldergrove last weekend.
Although there was no third-place game, head coach Mike McKinlay felt his team earned that title.
“The kids played well,” he said. “They improved immensely from the week before. They hit the ball when they had to, and our pitching was very good.”
The 16-team tournament included some of the top teams in the province. They played in four pools of four, with the winners of each pool advancing to semifinals. The Mustangs won all three of their pool games.
Cowichan opened the tournament on Friday by beating Delta 16-5 behind a grand slam by Kaleb Freer and the pitching of Curtis Atcheson.
Saturday’s scheduled games were rained out, so teams had to hurry through the rest of the schedule on Sunday morning, limiting games to five innings or an hour and 45 minutes.
Of course, the Mustangs’ first game that day required extra innings, but the team still got by Richmond 2-1. Nathan Tiemer started and pitched five and two-thirds innings, striking out 10, before James Joyce came in to close. Richmond broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth, but Cowichan leadoff batter Linden Williams blasted a solo home run to tie the score in the bottom, and the Mustangs won it in extras.
Cowichan beat Chilliwack 5-0 in the last round-robin game as Joyce hurled a 62-pitch, five-inning complete game shutout.
The Mustangs lost 3-2 to the Ladner Red Sox in the semifinals, despite a strong outing by Arjan Manhas, who allowed just four hits while striking out seven over five innings. Throughout the tournament, the Mustangs got good defensive performances from Caleb Battye, Cullen Plester, Joran Branting and Dru Wright.
Four Cowichan players — Joyce, Williams, Manhas and Brandon LeBlanc — made the second cut in the Team BC tryouts, then outperformed several players who did make Team BC at the John Maine Tournament.
The team will host the peewee AAA provincials at Evans Park on Aug. 5-7.