It obviously wasn’t just another exhibition tournament – these teams wanted to win, badly.
The Nanaimo Palladian Pirates defeated the Langley Blaze 5-4 on Monday at Serauxmen Stadium to win a five-team Victoria Day weekend tournament. The furious finish sparked celebration for the home team, whereas the visitors refused to line up for post-game handshakes and got booed off the field.
The final had it all. The Pirates held a 3-1 lead going into the top of the seventh inning, but the Blaze battled back to go up 4-3. At that point a Langley baserunner tried to steal home on a strikeout in the dirt, crashing into Nanaimo catcher Lenn Nakatsuka. The ball got dislodged and rolled away, and as the Pirates catcher went to retrieve it he was impeded by the Blaze baserunner as another run crossed home plate. The umpires conferred and eventually erased the runs.
Nanaimo tied it in the bottom of the seventh, then in the bottom of the eighth Josh Carless-Jones hit a game-winning RBI single just fair down the third-base line. Josh Burgmann earned the win on the mound after giving up no earned runs over two innings of relief.
“I have faith in these guys that they can come back. It’s just keeping our heads cool and trusting ourselves that we can do it,” said Kevin Inch, manager of the junior Pirates. “What a learning experience early in the year for a young team to go through that – to hold the lead and then give it up and then come back and win the game.”
He wasn’t too concerned about the lack of handshakes, pointing out that the Blaze (13-1) are competitive and aren’t used to suffering defeat.
“Learning how to lose is an important part of baseball, too,” said Inch. “I think emotions got the best of everybody over there.”
For the Palladian Pirates, the tournament final was a bonding moment, said the manager, as guys played for each other. It continued the good trends that the team showed all weekend long.
“We played great. We were just doing everything right,” said Carless-Jones. “Not too many errors, our pitching was very dominant, our hitting, clutch. Just an all-around good weekend for us.”
And proof that the Pirates (5-9) can find ways to win ball games as they get back to the B.C. Junior Premier Baseball League schedule.
“It gave us a huge confidence boost, got us going, and will get us ready for the regular season,” Carless-Jones said.
GAME ON … The junior Pirates host the Vancouver Cannons on Saturday (May 25) at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the Serauxmen Sports Fields.