The Whalley Junior Chiefs may have finished fourth in the BC Junior Premier Baseball League regular season, but they won big when it counted – capturing a league title Sunday after a perfect playoff weekend in North Vancouver.
The Chiefs, who had a 21-15 win-loss record during the regular season, defeated the tournament host North Shore Junior Twins 8-6 in the championship game.
The White Rock Tritons – who were the seventh seed in the eight-team tournament – did not advance past the playoff’s round-robin portion of the schedule, winning just once in three games.
The team’s lone victory came Saturday afternoon, 5-3 over the Abbotsford Cardinals.
In the championship final on Sunday, Whalley took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, when Stephen Horner singled and later scored on a North Shore error. The lead was extended to 4-0 one inning later when Ethan Gray – who reached base after being hit by a pitch – Jared Allemann and Horner all scored after one single, a walk, an error and a wild pitch.
The Twins scored a run in the bottom half of the inning to bring the deficit to just three runs, and scored twice more in the fourth, while Whalley scored once, when Jordan Yamaguchi was hit by a pitch and later scored.
The score remained 5-3 until the seventh inning, when the two teams scored three runs apiece.
Chiefs’ pitcher Nolan Weger was credited with the win, pitching four innings while scattering five hits. He also led the way offensively, with a triple and three runs batted in.
After Weger’s four innings on the mound, he was relieved by Justin Olic, who struck out one batter over the final three innings.
The Chiefs’ victory came as a result of “a lot of little things” according to the team’s general manager Paul Hargreaves.
“It sounds like basic stuff, but we got long starts from our starting pitchers – at least five innings in each game – and that really helps when you get into the fourth or five game of the weekend, and still have pitchers left,” he said. “And (on offence), we just hit the ball on the ground and were able to move runners over. It all paid big dividends.”
The Langley Junior Blaze – who’d lost just nine games in the regular season – were the favourites heading into the playoff weekend, but they were up-ended in the semifinals, losing 9-8 to the Twins, leaving the door open for an underdog to snag the title.
Hargreaves credited a solid week of practice prior to playoffs – and the work of his coaching staff, led by head coach Steve Chatzispiros – for lifting his club out of some late-season doldrums.
“The last couple weeks of the season, we only had a few games, so we were starting to get stale, starting to fade a little bit,” he explained. “We were sliding, and the kids were tired. But we had a few days of real solid practice, and we got the kids believing again that they were the team to beat. Then they went out there and won all five games.”
The other two local teams that made the playoffs – the North Delta Blue Jays and White Rock Tritons – did not advance past the round-robin portion of the eight-team tournament.
Each team won just one game; the Blue Jays defeated the Tritons 5-4 Saturday morning, while White Rock’s lone win came Saturday afternoon, 5-3 over the Abbotsford Junior Cardinals.