The midget AAA Cowichan Valley Mustangs ended the regular season on a strong note with four wins at home last weekend, and will head into their provincial baseball championships on a roll.
The Mustangs swept doubleheaders at Evans Park against the Vernon Canadians on Saturday and Kelowna Sun Devils on Sunday to finish the season with 21 wins and 17 losses, the fifth-best mark in the 11-team league.
Cowichan opened the weekend with a walk-off 6-5 win over Vernon. The teams went into the seventh inning tied at 4-4. The Canadians scored once in the top of the seventh, but the Mustangs responded with two in the bottom to clinch the victory.
The Mustangs’ six runs came on five hits as Tanner Cummings, Cole Anderson, Kale Eddy, and Graedy Hamilton each had singles and Brayden Radcliffe knocked a double as part of his three-RBI outing. Eddy and Nolan Fothergill also had RBIs.
James McMahon got the start on the mound and threw three innings, striking out two while allowing five hits and four runs. Brandon Langer pitched the last four innings for the win, striking out one and giving up three hits and one run.
The Mustangs followed that up with another one-run win, edging Vernon 4-3. Cowichan trailed Vernon 3-2 after three innings, but scored twice in the bottom of the fifth to pull ahead for good. Anderson went the distance on the mound, striking out eight while allowing just four hits and three runs. He also went 1-for-3 at the plate with a double and one RBI. Cummings went 2-for-3 at the plate and had three steals, and Eddy also had an RBI.
In the first game on Sunday, the Mustangs mercied the Sun Devils 13-3 in just five innings. The Cowichan players combined for 17 hits as eight of nine starters had at least one each. Cam LeSergent ended the game with four knocks, while Anderson, Radcliffe, Jacob Montague and Riley Windsor had two each, and Cummings, Eddy and Fothergill added one apiece. Anderson and Windsor had three RBIs apiece, Radcliffe had two, and Cummings, LeSergent, Montague and Fothergill had one each. Hamilton finished the game with two steals and Cummings added one.
Not to let his pitching be overshadowed by the offensive outburst, Fothergill held the Sun Devils to just two hits while striking out four over five innings.
The weekend ended with another close one as the Mustangs got by the Sun Devils 4-3. Cowichan again outhit Kelowna, this time by an 8-1 margin. Radcliffe hit a double, Dyson Kew had two singles, and LeSergent, Anderson, Eddy, Fothergill and James McMahon had one hit each. LeSergent and Eddy had two RBIs apiece. On the mound, Radcliffe gave up just one hit over five-and-a-third innings, while striking out six and walking five. Kew pitched the remaining inning and two thirds, giving up no hits, with one strikeout and three walks.
The Mustangs are off to the provincial championships in Richmond this weekend. They play round-robin games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, followed by playoffs on Monday.
The Mustangs have a .500 record against the other teams in their pool at provincials, having won two of four against Victoria, one of four against Richmond City, and three of four against Burnaby.
“We have to finish in the top two to make the playoffs on Monday,” manager Tod LeSergent said. “Our losses to Victoria and Richmond were earlier in the season -— in the last two games against Vic we were 2-0 and 1-1 with Richmond — so we like our chances of getting into the semi-finals.”
Strategy will come into play for the Mustangs over the four-day tournament.
“The provincials actually has a lighter schedule than the regular season where we often played four games in two days,” LeSergent explained. “It’s a bit like a chess match when it comes to planning out the pitching for a tournament, as mandatory rest periods are attached to the pitch limits to protect players’ arms. I think we’ll see some good matchups. Let’s hope the bats can stay hot.”