The smallest association in the provincial baseball championships this year surprised everyone by winning the B.C. bantam A title last weekend.
The Chemainus Heat brought home the championship from the tournament in Comox, beating out teams from some of the province’s biggest communities to claim glory.
“Talking to some of the parents from Vancouver, they were asking, ‘Why is this team so good from this little town of Chemainus?'” manager Phil Simpson recalled.
The Heat went 3-1 in the round robin. They opened the tournament last Friday with a 9-0 win over White Rock behind a combined no-hitter from pitchers Jamie Roberts and Kolton Hogstead.
Although they lost their second game 6-4 to host Comox Valley on Saturday morning, the Heat bounced back to down Abbotsford 11-8 that afternoon in one of their tougher games, then beat Newton 8-6 on Sunday afternoon to lock up a semifinal berth.
On Monday morning, it was David against Goliath as Chemainus faced Vancouver Community in the semifinals, but the Heat didn’t back down, mercying Vancouver 15-5 in five innings.
“It was the big city of Vancouver versus the little town of Chemainus,” Simpson said. “We were expecting more.”
The Heat went up 5-0 in the top of the first on home runs by Hunter Livingston and Adam Brownlow, and never looked back.
“We set the tone and went on a roll,” Simpson said. “They were deflated and they weren’t able to come back.”
The final against Port Coquitlam was similarly lopsided. Roberts pitched a complete game with a line that any major leaguer would have been proud of: seven innings, five hits and 11 strikeouts, as Chemainus prevailed 13-1.
Not bad for a team that didn’t even have enough hopefuls to hold tryouts.
“This was basically our house ball team,” Simpson said. “We took 10 of the kids from our house team and added two kids from Nanaimo.”
Most of the players have been together for several seasons, and they peaked at the right time. Simpson credited the victory to a complete one-through-12 effort.
“We’ve had the same kids playing together year after year, and they all came together,” he said.
As far as anyone connected to the team could recall, it was the first provincial title for a Chemainus baseball team since 1987.
“There have obviously been kids from Chemainus who played in Duncan or played in Ladysmith and won, but this is the first time one of our own teams has won in well over 20 years,” Simpson said.
The Heat earned their way into the provincial tournament by winning the zone championships a week earlier, a feat they capped off with a 5-4 win over Victoria in 11 innings.
Head coach Mike Rochon and assistants Neil Stevens and Pete Brownlow guided the Heat on the field, but Simpson credited local legend Larry Hopwo with making much of the championship possible just by making sure there was baseball in Chemainus.
“He’s been the president for something like 42 years, and he almost singlehandedly kept baseball alive,” Simpson said. “He was a huge part of that win. We wouldn’t have been playing without him.”