It was bound to happen eventually. And now, finally, the Concordia Stingers baseball team has taken over first place in the Quebec division of the Canadian Interuniversity Baseball League.
The Stingers took over top spot thanks to a two-game sweep of archival Laval Rouge et Or this past Saturday at LaSalle Park in Lachine. Thanks to a dramatic 7-6 win in their first game and a 10-0 mercy win in just five innings of play in the following match, the Stingers are temporarily the team to beat.
The Maroon and Gold are also showing that early claims of having the country’s best pitching staff were far more than just talk.
A rough start in the first inning of game one had ConU pitcher John Holden looking suspect with the Stingers trailing 3-1. Things would quickly settle down on the defensive end as Holden would settle into a groove that was backed by some quality performances by the rest of the unit.
The next several innings would see multiple chances for the Stingers to put a dent in the lead get broken up by an equally determined defensive performance by a skilled Laval team.
Concordia’s best opportunity for an offensive breakout came in the bottom of the fifth inning when Antonio Di Mambro hit a two out double. That was followed up by a single from Nick Palko that put the tying run on base. Unfortunately a groundout from the next batter put an end to the threat and had time running thin for a Stinger comeback.
While Holden continued to look stellar on the mound the Stingers got their offense rolling again in the sixth starting with battle of endurance between ConU’s Jan-Sauve Frankel and the Laval pitcher. A 10-pitch at bat for Frankel finally led to a walk to open the inning. Following that at-bat Laval’s ace looked exhausted giving up another single to Palko, and then a wild pitch put runners on second and third base.
The Stingers didn’t waste the huge opportunity as Matt Arthur belted a single that brought in two runs to tie the game with no outs.
After a walk to Carlo Stante on four pitches the Laval manager changed pitchers to try and settle things down. The strategy failed as Andrew Glowacki made contact to give Concordia a 4-3 lead. The Stingers managed to go through their batting order before coming out of the inning with a 5-3 lead.
Just three outs away from a win, Holden put the team above any personal pride as he pulled himself out of the game on just the second batter of the seventh. This brought in Nat Thomas, arguably Concordia’s strongest pitcher, to close the deal.
“John was really pitching his guts out there and put the team above himself by leaving when he did,” Coach Schwartz said.
After a misplay of the ball in the ConU outfield cut it to a 5-4 deficit the game took a turn for the ridiculous. When what would have been a game ending double play was ruined by a delayed and thus questionable call at first base the officials turned into verbal punching bags for both players and spectators. Even worse was that the call allowed the tying run to come into home.
Things seemed to completely slip away from the Maroon and Gold when a bad pitch brought in another run that gave Laval a 6-5 lead. The bottom of the inning saw things get out of hand when another questionable call, this time a called foul ball that the Stingers bench thought was fair, led to coach Howard Schwartz leaving his bench and approaching the home plate umpire. However, it was an altercation between Schwartz and the Laval catcher that led to both of them being ejected for the remainder of the game and the following match.
When the game resumed the Stingers seemed to use the incident as fuel as Thomas would score a run to tie the game. Then came one of the biggest moments for the Stingers so far this year as, with the bases now loaded, Di Mambro came up to bat and connected ball with stick to give his team a win that they so richly deserved.
“It took a while for us to get our head and heart into the game,” Coach Schwartz said after the game. “In the end though, I was impressed with the character that this team showed.”
The comeback win made history for Concordia, as it was the first time they had defeated Laval more than once in a season. Only a few hours later they would add to that mark in the second game.
Game two saw what would eventually turn out to be another outstanding pitching performance get off to a somewhat shaky start when pitcher Jamie Boulanger got stuck with runners on first and second. However, a sharp catch a shortstop by Nick Palko lead to a double play to end any immediate threat.
Despite looking nervous throwing out the next batter at first to end the inning Boulanger would spend the rest of the game asserting both his confidence and dominance over Laval’s batting lineup.
As for the Concordia sluggers, they would have a field day, managing to build up a secure 6-0 lead in just two innings against an inferior pitcher who looked like a boy in man’s game.
The match was never in question as Concordia’s offense only needed three more innings to put up the necessary ten run differential to force a mercy victory as Boulanger was able to hold up his end the rest of the way in a 10-0 win.
“I really wasn’t surprised with the outcome of those games,” Glowacki said of his team’s dominance over Laval. “We got a good squad with four starters that can go anytime and that all throw hard.”
Not only did the doubleheader move the Stingers into fifth place in the country but it also plummeted top-ranked Laval down to seventh in the nation.
“It feels good to get ahead of Laval. That was our goal and now we’re in a good position,” said Nat Thomas.