Two errors in the bottom of the second inning were all it took to send Concordia to the Nationals Sunday afternoon.
Marc-AndrÃ© Fleury reached first base after being hit by a pitch.
A bad throw by McGill’s pitcher Conrad Hall, who was trying to pick him off at first, advanced Fleury to second base.
Robin Fox-Pappas, the next batter for Concordia, laid down a beautiful bunt that McGill’s catcher Daniel Porter couldn’t get his hands on. Fox-Pappas was safe at first, Fleury was on third.
Marshall Johnston came up for the Stingers and hit a grounder right up the middle. But McGill’s shortstop Alexander Day grabbed it and decided to go for the double play at second, then first.
Fleury scored on the play. The score was 1-0, Concordia.
That run held up until the end for the Stingers, who took the conference final series two games to one and will play to defend their title this weekend at the National championships in Windsor, Ontario.
The Stingers only registered one hit in the entire game, while McGill had five. Tight fielding and nine strikeouts by rookie pitcher AndrÃ© Lagarde, kept the game within reach for the Stingers.
“They shut us down. […] To McGill’s credit, don’t forget they were 13-3 this year, first place, they didn’t get there because they bought their way there. They’re a good team and we beat a very very good team out there,” said head coach Howie Schwartz after the game.
Lagarde was pulled in favour of Braden Simpson in the seventh inning, but was satisfied with his performance.
“In a game like that, I gave it my all. That’s about all I can ask for. […] I started off a bit shaky, but I mean, once I started throwing strikes… I don’t know, them yelling at me kind of pumped me up, so I guess it was basically a motivator.”
The Stingers forced game three after the two teams split the first two games on Saturday afternoon.
McGill took game one 5-4. Concordia opened the scoring in the first inning when Marco Masciotra came in on a hit by Emilio Pampena.
But the Redmen scored the next four runs. In the bottom of the third, a line drive hit by Day almost collided with teammate Edward Davis, who was running to third base. He jumped to avoid the ball, but was right in front of Masciotra, who was playing shortstop. He didn’t have enough time to react and the hit scored two runs for McGill.
Stingers pitcher Medhi Djebbar started the game, and though he was very effective against McGill when they met in the regular season, he “just didn’t have it,” said coach Schwartz.
“He had an off day. He couldn’t find the strike zone, his pitches, his delivery, his mechanics were way out of whack, and he was just struggling all day.”
The Stingers fought back and tied the game in the top of the fifth, when Pampena scored on a sacrifice fly by Fleury after having hit a double to get on base.
But McGill scored what proved to be the winning run in the sixth, after Day hit a long ball to deep centre field for a triple, and scored on a single by Casey Auerbach.
Concordia took game two 11-1, taking advantage of McGill’s frustration over what they thought were missed calls by the umpires. The Redmen couldn’t seem to get anyone out on the basepaths &- the Stingers finished the game with nine stolen bases.
Pampena, Lagarde and Jason Katz all went 2-for-4, with four, two and two RBI, respectively.
Defending their title this weekend won’t be easy. The Durham Lords and the St. Clair Saints will represent the Ontario conference. The Lords finished first in their conference, and went 16-0 this season. The Saints are the host team, and automatically receive a berth to Nationals despite finishing at the bottom of the standings. The Cape Breton Capers finished first in the Atlantic conference, posting a 10-4 record. The Stingers regular season record this year is 11-5.
The Stingers will leave Thursday for Windsor. The Nationals start this Friday, Oct. 22, and will wrap up Sunday.