After playing 23 innings of baseball in one day, the Cowichan Valley Mustangs ended up with the silver medal at the provincial bantam AA championships, which wrapped up on Monday in Burnaby.
“The players fought with a sword in their hand the whole tournament,” head coach Mike Rochon said. “I was super proud of them. They executed everything we asked of them all weekend.”
The day started with a tiebreaker game against the Prince George Knights, which the Mustangs won 5-4 in nine innings. That put them into the semifinal in which they prevailed 5-4 over the Delta-Tsawassen Tigers. Finally, the tired team faced their Island rivals from Victoria-Triangle in the final, and ended up falling 5-4.
“We had nothing left in the tank when we went to play Victoria, but we still only lost in the bottom of the seventh,” Rochon said.
The Mustangs beat Triangle for the Island championship in June, but the Victoria team had loaded up on pickup players for provincials since that time. It also didn’t help that, after four round-robin games, a tiebreaker and a semifinal, the Mustangs’ arms were worn out.
“We absolutely ran out of pitchers,” Rochon said. “We were exhausted and depleted.”
The Mustangs rode a quartet of first-year hurlers through the tournament, as Jordan Atcheson, Reece Melnick, Nathan Lavallee and Daniel Larson handled most of the pitching duties, and Rochon gave them full credit for the team’s success.
“If it wasn’t for those four kids, we wouldn’t have had a chance to get through,” he said.
Also impressive was infielder Isaac Leik.
“He was absolutely flawless at the shortstop position, making huge defensive plays,” Rochon said.
The Mustangs launched five home runs over the seven games, including two by Hunter Livingston, and one each from Melnick, Mateo Iorio and Conner Carson.
Cowichan went 3-1 in round-robin play. The team kicked things off with a five-inning mercy victory over Vernon on Friday. Their only loss came against the Ridge Meadows Royals on Saturday morning, but they got back in the win column with a 3-1 victory over Prince George that evening, then downed the Ladner Red Sox 6-2 on Sunday afternoon, setting up the Monday morning tiebreaker.
Based on the competition in their round-robin group, it was remarkable that the Mustangs advanced to the playoffs at all.
“All the top seeds were on the same side, so even to come through in our division was a miracle,” Rochon said. “It was really against all odds. Every card was against us to come through.”
The Mustangs are in Maple Ridge this weekend for the tournament that will decide who represents B.C. at the Western Canadian Championships in St. Albert, Alberta.
After the way his team performed at provincials, and with his pitching staff rested up, Rochon is optimistic about the Mustangs’ chances at the qualifier.
“We’ve got a truly legitimate shot,” he said.