Duncan’s RiverCats claim Westen Canada baseball title

The boys from Duncan are the best in the west.

Sporting Team BC jerseys, and with two pickups from Campbell River in tow, the Duncan RiverCats made their hometown proud by winning the Western Canada Peewee AA Baseball Championship in Swift Current, Sask., last weekend.

Assistant coach Western Higbie knew his team was good, but he had never counted on bringing back the title.

“I don’t think you can expect to win,” he said. “We’re a confident group, but you don’t want to get ahead of yourself; baseball is a fickle game. It wasn’t something we were surprised at, but it was still pretty cool.”

The dominant Gavin Pringle pitched a five-inning, complete-game, three-hit shutout in the final, while his teammates recorded 19 hits in a 14-0 win over the Manitoba champions, the Altona Bisons.

“I don’t think they had seen anyone all tournament like that,” Higbie said of the towering 12-year-old, who has left opposing coaches in awe at every tournament this summer.

Leadoff hitter Jackson Stephen got on base in the first inning, and Matteo Iorio followed that with a home run as the RiverCats built a 2-0 lead against Altona and never looked back.

Iorio finished the game 4-for-4 with four RBIs, Billy Ramwell was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, Brodie Deverill was 2-for-2 with two RBIs, and Evan Pywell was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

It wasn’t just the offence that was on fire, as Connor Hall threw a runner out at third from right field, the middle infield pulled off their first double play of the year, and catcher Josh Hill threw out two runners at second base.

The tournament didn’t start out that way for the RiverCats. Fatigued after making the longest journey of any team there, the Duncan team lost its opener on Friday 4-3 to the Unity Cardinals, the Saskatchewan champs, as both teams gave up just four hits in a defensive battle.

Team BC turned it around on Saturday, starting with a 10-1 win over the host Swift Current Indians. Deverill launched a homer as part of a 2-for-3 outing, while Stephen pitched a six-inning one-hitter for the win.

“That’s the best I’ve seen him pitch all year, from house ball to the summer season,” Higbie said. “He was incredibly dominant.”

The RiverCats got more top-notch pitching later that day when Luc Wilson came to the mound in the second inning the Bisons. Wilson got out of bases-loaded, none-out jams in back-to-back innings to guide his team to a 12-5 win over Altona.

Deverill added two more dingers in the afternoon game as he went 4-for-4, while Connor Caskenette was 2-for-2.

On Sunday morning, the Duncan boys made quick work of Alberta’s Grande Prairie Reds with a 21-2 five-inning mercying. Brodie Comerford gave up just seven hits as he pitched a complete game, Stephen blasted his first home run, Pywell was 2-for-2 with a double, and Hall was 1-for-3 with a triple.

Team BC finished first thanks to their run differential, but Altona had to beat Unity for the other spot in the final, which gave the RiverCats an advantage.

“That helped run out their pitchers,” Higbie explained. “They had nothing left for us. I don’t think it mattered which team went through.”

Deverill’s .692 batting average and three homers both led the tournament, although Caskenette’s .714 average would have been tops had he registered enough plate appearances. Iorio finished with a tournament-high nine RBIs.

Team BC’s unsung heroes included Hayden Plester, Morley Scott and Mike Arscott, while Campbell River pickups Hall and Comerford managed to blend right in with the Duncan players.

“They just fit in like they had been playing with us all year. Right from the get-go, the kids bonded with them.”

The championship was also a big milestone for assistant coaches Steve Bossons and Gobind Sall, Bossons having won the Western Canadian bantam AA championship as a player in 2005, and for head coach Ken Ramwell, who got to see his son Billy win a gold medal in the same year his daughter Devon won a Western Canadian U18 softball championship with her Victoria team.

Ten of the 12 RiverCats will move up to bantam next year, with Pringle and Caskenette staying at peewee to help the players moving up from the Duncan mosquito team that also won the provincial championship this year.