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It was, in a word, wild.
Or you can say crazy. Or maybe stunning.
You could probably insert any word and it would find a place somewhere in Sunday’s Canadian national 18U midget championship in London.
It was about as far as one could get from the best-played championship game, but the excitement level was without comparison.
The London Badgers and Tecumseh Thunder beat up on each other for seven innings because neither team refused to believe they could be beaten. But in the end the Badgers had a little more staying power, emerging as Canadian champions in a 16-11 final at Labatt Park Sunday.
There really isn’t enough space to describe every important play in the game or for that matter every mistake, every great play or every thrill.
The two teams combined for 27 runs, 18 hits, 10 errors and 14 walks; 16 of those runs came in the last three innings.
In a nutshell, the Badgers led 9-3 in the fifth only to give up eight unanswered runs and trailing 11-9 going into the top of the seventh inning, their last inning.
They sent 12-men to the plate, scored seven runs in that inning on one hit, two Tecumseh errors, two hit batters, a passed ball and a wild pitch.
“I just don’t know how you do it,” said a still-shocked Badgers head coach Mike Lumley. “How do you do it? Does it come down to training all year? They believe in each other; they believe in coming back; they don’t mind having the tight games. Even going into the last inning they were up on us by two, you could tell they weren’t dead. They came out swinging. They believed ‘oh, we’ve got a shot. Oh, we got the tying run on second.’ Every time they got a guy on they knew they had it. They had the crowd behind them and it just helped.”
It was one of those nights for everyone when one time the ball took a bounce in your favour and the next it ate you up.
Of the 16 runs the Badgers scored, only five were earned. The Thunder committed six errors.
Seth Chauvin started for the Badgers and went 4 1/3. He gave up eight runs but only three were earned. Aaronn Curtis Atkins relieved him and got the win.
Both were pickups from the Windsor area.
Chauvin pitched in Windsor because he was cut from the Thunder squad.
It was the kind of game that bred heroes and goats.
One of the heroes was their gritty shortstop Alex Fishback. He was named player-of-the-game and always seemed to be in the middle of everything.
He looked like he was carrying half the dirt of the Labatt Park infield home on his uniform.
“I guess that’s what it takes to win a championship,” he said. “For our team the goal was never lose the energy. We didn’t want to lose the energy on the bench. We were pumping the team up. We never thought we were out of it. Not with this team. The energy is fantastic.”
Fishback had two hits and four RBI while Isaiah Smith had a hit and two RBI.
Fishback drew the bases-loaded walk that gave the Badgers a one-run lead in the seventh.
“I got walked with the bases-loaded to get the go-ahead run,” Fishback said. “You dream of that situation as a kid. That’s what you want; up with the bases loaded and a national championship on the line. It was fantastic.”
The Badgers were the best team going into medal play. They finished pool play 5-0 outscoring the opposition 38-9. They then defeated Quebec 6-3 in the semifinal despite trailing 1-0 going into the fifth. The Badgers scored three in that fifth inning to take a 3-1 lead and three more in the top of the seventh to insure the win.
The pitching help the Badgers picked up certainly helped them get to the final.
Tecumseh had to battle all the way to get into the final. They lost twice going into elimination play before beating Saskatchewan 14-10 in the quarterfinal and New Brunswick 16-0 in the other semifinal.
Lumley wanted to prepare his team for tough competition so he has them playing in the Southwestern Senior Baseball League, a men’s league.
Lumley said he started to believe more in his club’s ability as the season progressed.
“If you’d have asked me in May if I’d be surprised to be here I’d say absolutely,” he said. “As we went through the season there was a time when we played the Strathroy Royals, one of the best men’s senior team in Canada. We lose 6-4 but we play clean; we’re mature; nothing phases us. You kind of knew then they had it in them mentally to get to this point.”
The gold medal was the first medal win for the Badger midget team since 2013, when they won gold in Quebec. That gold medal capped a run from 2009-2013 when they won three midget gold nationals and finished third twice.
New Brunswick was the bronze medal winner in this tournament defeating Quebec.
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