Braves 5 Pirates 4
Jared Arnold strode off into the proverbial sunset with hugs and handshakes from his teammates.
In his final outing as a Red Deer Brave, the lanky right-hander threw everything he had trying to finish the game against the North Winnipeg Pirates.
Arnold pitched into the seventh inning, registering one out in the final frame before giving way to Bryce Betty. With a 5-0 lead, the victory looked safe.
The pesky Pirates had other ideas, nearly spoiling the veteran’s swansong. They scored four runs in the inning, including a pair with two outs and had the tying run on third before Betty induced a pop-out to end the game.
“I came out just wanting to have a good start for my last game and I came out strong and just carried it to the end of the game. I wanted to close it out, couldn’t quite do it,” said Arnold, who earned game MVP honours.
“I’ve played here my whole life. It’s hard to say goodbye… I gave it everything I’ve got. I knew they were going to pitch me out.”
The nervy 5-4 victory was the Braves first of the 18U AAA Western Canada Championships and a much-needed bounceback after a 13-1 drubbing in the opener on Thursday.
“When we got that fifth run in the top of the seventh, I thought, the way we operate sometimes, that might be a very important run. And it turned out to be,” said Braves manager Randy Gehring.
“We’ve had some situations this year where you expect it’s going to be easy bottom seventh. We don’t generally make things easy on ourselves. It’s exciting for the fans though.”
Max Benton put the Braves up 2-0 with an RBI single in the sixth and a double steal extended the advantage a few pitches later. Myles Pallister hit an RBI double in the seventh to open up the 5-0 lead.
As for Arnold’s performance, he was lights out for six innings before a bit of trouble in the seventh. He had a no-hitter going until Wyatt Whitwell knocked a single with two out in the sixth.
Gehring let the veteran control his own destiny and throw 96-pitches on the afternoon before finally handing over the ball.
“He took the bull by the horns and decided that he wanted to go out and finish his Red Deer Minor Baseball career on a good note. As a coach, you can’t ask for much more than that,” Gehring added.
Arnold is off to start the next chapter of his baseball career Sunday, heading to Colby College in Kansas where he will pitch next season as a member of the Trojans in NJCAA Division I baseball.
He was originally verbally committed to Minot State University but after a scout from the Trojans watched him at a showcase earlier this year, Arnold and his family decided that was the right fit. Colby College is also the alma mater of St. Joseph Ball Academy coach and Red Deer Rigger Jason Chatwood.
“He invited them to a showcase at our school and I pitched in front of them and they offered me,” Arnold said.
“At the time I was going to Minot. I talked with my family and it was just a family decision about where I wanted to go… Colby is just where I wanted to be.”
As for his time with RDMBA, Arnold said ending it with a win at Westerns on his home field was about as good as it gets.
It’s fantastic, there’s two overagers on our team (Zach Baker and Jake Honke) who support the team. It just shows how much of a family we are,” he said
“Everyone on the team loves each other and we pick each other up. We’ve been playing with each other for years. It’s tough to say goodbye. I hope they do well the rest of the tournament.”
The Braves play twice Saturday At Westerns with the first game at 9 a.m. against the North Delta Blue Jays. At 3 p.m., they’ll play the Saskatoon Cubs.
In other play on Friday, the Saskatoon Cubs downed the North Delta Blue Jays 7-1 and they also beat the Northern Lights 4-3.