The men’s baseball began the defence of their National Championship title this past weekend by winning their conference semifinal series against the Ottawa Gee-Gees two games to one.
The Stingers won their last four regular season matchups last week by a combined score of 47-7.
The two games Friday night against first-place McGill were originally rain-outs and were rescheduled at the request of the league.
The wins secured them second place in their conference and home-field advantage for the first two games of the semi-finals.
“We didn’t want to play,” explained head coach Howie Schwartz. “But the fact that we’d been struggling with our bats in the last [few] games now, this may have been the best tonic for us for the entire season.”
Saturday afternoon, the Stingers scored nine unanswered runs in the first three innings and took the first game of the doubleheader by a score of 9-1. Centre fielder Emilio Pampena knocked in three runs, while third baseman Mark Nadler and shortstop Marco Masciotra had two RBI apiece. Winning pitcher Medhi Djebbar struck out seven batters and allowed only three hits.
Errors made by Gee-Gee shortstop Steve Kutcher led to Concordia scoring the second game’s first run.
Still feeding off the high from their week of wins, the team seemed to have the game under control. However, they didn’t score another run until the fifth inning.
Kutcher overthrew a ball intended for second base, which ended up in the Stingers’ dugout. The two free bases for the runners resulted in second baseman Jason Katz scoring, and the Stingers finished the inning with a 4-1 lead.
But the lead was short-lived. In the top of the sixth, Masciotra came in to pitch. He retired the first batter, but gave two walks and hit a batter to load the bases. The Gee-Gees’ Scott Derbyshire then hit a single, which drove in a run.
Christian Jadah, who had taken over from Djebbar in the fourth inning, returned to the mound afterwards.
But the next three batters hit as well, including a two-run single by Hayden Ford.
The inning came to a close with two ground- outs at first, but the Gee-Gees had done their damage.
The Stingers failed to score any runs in the sixth, but they held the Gee-Gees at bay in the top of the seventh.
In the final inning, Masciotra reached first after being hit by a pitch. An error moved him over to second, and he stole third in time for Nadler to hit him in and make it a one-run game. Pampena also reached first with a single, and the Stingers now had two runners on base with two outs. Right fielder Marc-Andre? Fleury was up next, but hit a foul ball caught by the third baseman to end the game.
The Stingers won the final game of the match-up Sunday in Ottawa 14-5.
Braden Simpson, who had had problems with an elbow injury this season, “pitched a gem,” said Schwartz.
The team combined for 14 hits in the game and only two defensive errors. The entire team contributed offensively. Notably, RJ Leibovitch went 2-for-4 with four RBI, and Katz went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI.
“The team that was dormant all year, in the last week has just come alive,” Schwartz explained over the phone during the team’s post-game celebration at his house. “The one thing I’ve been preaching to them in the last two weeks has been to take more disciplined at-bats, and become more confident at the plate … and it looks like it’s finally caught fire.”
The Stingers will take on McGill in the conference final this weekend at Trudeau Park. Game one of the doubleheader starts at noon Oct. 16, and game two will follow after.