A standout pitching staff led the way as the Duncan-based Mid Island Brewers swept past the Layritz Reds to take the South Island Baseball League championship earlier this month.
Hurlers Morley Scott and Jamie Roberts propelled the Brewers to their first league title by winning the first two games of the best-of-three series against the Reds at Lambrick Park on Sept. 1 and 3.
It was the first time in many years that the top two teams in the regular season faced off in the championship series, a showdown between the Brewers, who were especially strong on the mound, and the Reds, who were known this season for their big bats, scoring 172 runs in 14 games, 64 more than the league’s next best offence. This time, at least, the pitchers proved to powerful for the hitters.
“We had kind of gained a reputation over the season as having a lot of talented pitchers,” Brewers player-manager Keygan Hankins said. “So this was going to answer the age-old question of, ‘What wins: good hitting or good pitching?’”
The Brewers’ own bats got going in the series opener, scoring nine runs, but the star of the game was Scott, who dealt a no-hitter with 14 strikeouts against the powerhouse Reds.
“None of us even realized what he had done until we were celebrating after the game and the umpire came over and handed me the ball and said, ‘I’m pretty sure your pitcher just threw a no-hitter,’” Hankins recalled. “Right then and there, it answered the question of hitting versus pitching.’”
The Brewers knew the Reds would be hungry going into the second game, but with Roberts on the mound, the Mid Island club was confident.
Roberts got through the top of the first inning, then led off the bottom of the first with a single. Scott walked, the third and fourth batters flied out, then Jordan Frost singled to load the bases. Jace Hamm went to the plate next and was hit by a pitch to bring in the only run of the game, and, as it turned out, all the offensive support that Roberts would need.
Roberts did get himself into a couple of sticky situations, but he always found a way out.
“He buckled down and threw hard,” Hankins said. “He gave up one hit over seven innings and had 10 strikeouts. He had an absolutely incredible season on the mound for us.”
The Brewers’ passion on the field increased with each subsequent inning.
“I have never seen more emotion on the field in person, and I’ve played baseball since I was five or six,” said Hankins, the oldest member of the Brewers at 25.
In the sixth, the Reds had runners on first and third after a debatable call at third, but Roberts struck out the next two batters to get back in control of the game.
“Once Jamie walked out there for the for the seventh, with the level of adrenaline he was riding, it was never in question,” Hankins said.
Originally based out of Duncan, the Brewers moved to Duncan. They were the first team from outside Victoria ever admitted to the SIBL, playing an unofficial season in 2017 before becoming full members in 2018, when they were runners-up, losing the final series 2-1. The Brewers finished third in 2019, then the entire 2020 campaign was lost to COVID-19.
“In 2021, we finally broke through,” Hankins said. “We’ve always been a fairly good team.”
There were originally going to be two teams playing out of Duncan this year after several players who aged out of the Cowichan Valley Mustangs youth programs. When it turned out there would be only one team, the Brewers were able to add players like Scott and Roberts to their tight nucleus.
“It’s a team of guys who have known each other a long time,” Hankins said. “The core is a bunch of guys who played Mustangs together for a long time, starting when we were around 13 or 14. Our love for each other and desire to win together is what made a difference this year.”
The Brewers went 10-4 in the regular season, tying the Layritz Rockies for second overall, but Mid Island was seeded second going into the playoffs based on run differential.
They opened the playoffs against their arch-rivals, the seventh-seeded Layritz Giants.
“Games between us are always a little loud, a little obnoxious,” Hankins laughed.
The Brewers won the opener 4-0 behind Roberts’ complete-game shutout, then took game two 9-5 as Frost allowed two runs over five innings before handing the ball to Scott.
The team then went into the semifinals against the Lambrick Pirates, winning game one 3-1 with Roberts on the mound.
“The Pirates are a great offensive team,” Hankins said. “We were lucky to come away with the win.
“It was probably due to some baserunning errors by the Pirates that our team was able to take advantage of. What was a 3-1 game could have easily been a 7-3 or 8-3 game if the Pirates hadn’t made mistakes and our team hadn’t capitalized on those mistakes.”
Game two was delayed due to a positive COVID test for one of the Pirates players that later turned out to be a false positive, and then the Pirates ended up losing a bunch of players anyway to a wedding party. When the game was actually played, the Brewers prevailed 13-7 with Scott on the mound. It was a breakout game of sorts for Zach Komst whose home run put the Brewers in front for good, and Frost and Hamm chipped in with great defensive plays to put Mid Island into the final.
The 2021 season may have just ended, but the Brewers are already looking toward next season, when they hope to repeat as champions while adding a second team in Duncan as well.
“Slo-pitch isn’t the only option for ballplayers after they turn 19,” Hankins noted. “We want people to know there is baseball being played by adults in the Valley.”
For more information about the Brewers and a possible second team in the Cowichan Valley, email email@example.com