The Concordia Stingers came out with a 6-5 win against a feisty Université de Montréal team in game one of their best-of-three semi-final League series at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Carabins had taken one of two games in their double header last week in the regular season, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Stingers from finishing in first place in the standings.
The Stingers and Carabins traded runs early in the first inning, making it a 1-1 game. The Carabins would take the lead in the top of the second inning on a bases-loaded, one-out situation. Concordia attempted to complete the force-out on a ground ball hit to third base, but the runner was called safe at the plate.
Stingers pitcher Jonathan Raftus struck out the next two players to end the inning, one of his many clutch plays throughout what would prove to be a back-and-forth nail-bitter that would not be decided until the final out.
The Stingers would reply with a couple of runs of their own in the bottom half of the second inning. A bases-loaded walk and an RBI single would give the Stingers a 3-2 lead after two innings, but it could have been 4-2 if Raftus was called safe on a close play at home plate.
“I personally thought I was safe but I’ll leave that to the umpires. It didn’t change the game in the end,” Raftus said.
After Stingers catcher Jean-Christophe Paquin led off the bottom of the third inning with a slicing double down the left field line, the Stingers were unable to advance Paquin and score an insurance run as the next two players would both ground out. But then, with two outs and Paquin still at second base, the slugging first baseman Peter Zidros came to the plate and hit an absolute moonshot home run deep over the left field fence to give the Stingers some cushion and a 5-2 lead.
“It was a low-inside pitch, which is where I like it,” Zidros said. “I thought it was gone. But I had my doubts on the way to first [base].”
Manager Howie Schwartz thought differently, “I’ve been waiting 16 games for that. I knew it was gone as soon as he hit it,” he said.
Although it was no secret that the Stingers were pumped up after the home run, the adrenaline would be short-lived. The top of the fourth inning ended the worst inning for the Stingers, who gave up three runs and coughed up the lead as the Carabins tied the game five runs apiece.
Raftus would prove to help his team both on the mound and at the plate, contributing an RBI single in the fifth inning which turned out to be the go-ahead run in the 6-5 victory. “It feels good because I’ve been in a slump these last few games, it’s good to get it off my chest and help the team win,” Raftus said.
“I always like to help the team win, any way I can,” he said after the game, giving due credit to his team, “Our defense was great. Sometimes we made a few hiccup plays, but I wasn’t too worried, I knew we would bounce back and get the runs.”
Win or no win, there still remains room for improvement. “We’re gonna have to work on eliminating some of the mental mistakes and some of the mental errors we’re making out there,” said Schwartz. “I’m overall very proud. Great teams win when you’re not playing so great and that’s the case with our team.”