The Saskatoon Cubs showed no quit in the finals of the 18UAAA Western Canada Championships.
Trailing 7-2 midway through the game against the Grande Prairie’s Northern Lights Academy, Saskatoon pulled off a miraculous comeback at Great Chief Park on Sunday.
They took the title in dramatic, walk-off fashion with a 9-8 win in extra innings and for head coach Dan Morari, in his final season coaching the group, it was a special feeling.
“When we pick our teams. We pick quality kids. We expect that from them. That’s what they’ve been giving us all year. Kids with the right attitude. Keep fighting, down or up we keep going. We expect it from them and they sure delivered,” he said.
“They’ve gelled together so well and this is my last year coaching so they picked me up and gave me a good sendoff. It was awesome.”
There’s your Western Canada 18UAAA Champs, the Saskatoon Cubs. What a wild game, trailed 7-2, won it 9-8 in extra innings over Northern Lights of Grande Prairie. Crazy finish to that one. @reddeerbaseball @BaseballAlberta pic.twitter.com/AUZuj0hK3Z
— Byron Hackett (@RDAbyronhackett) August 18, 2019
A rally in the bottom of the fifth allowed the Cubs to tie the game at seven but in the first extra-inning, Northern Lights went ahead 8-7 on an RBI single by outfielder Donavan Wallace.
In the bottom half, a walk, a bunt and an intentional walk loaded the bases for Cubs catcher Evan Ginther with two outs. The catcher bounced a groundball up the middle on the first pitch he saw. After the tying run scored, Morari waved Tyler Vanneste in from the third base coaches box.
The throw from centre field was off line and Vanneste crossed the plate into a mob of his screaming Cubs’ teammates. Morari was halfway to the Cubs dugout for the celebration when the winning run touched home.
“I knew it was getting through. My immediate concern was let’s get that kid from second home. That was it, I found myself running onto the field as the play developed. That was a lot of fun,” he said.
Ginther, the hero on the afternoon said he was simply proud of his teammates and their ability to come back and win the game.
“Just hoping we win and as soon as we did, I was extremely happy,” said Ginther, who was game MVP for the Cubs.
“We’re just all so close. We’re non-stop talking to each other. Everyone is respectful and everyone supports each other. As a team we’re just so much better when we’re together and we’ve been doing it all year.”
Congratulations to Grande Prairie Lights-a team that won Tier 2 Provincials, won silver at Tier 1 Provincials & Silver at Westerns! #northernbaseball #welldeserved #greatstory @ABDugoutStories @BaseballAlberta pic.twitter.com/681YBwW6tk
— Cathy Andreassen (@duhamelgirl65) August 19, 2019
The catcher also made another pivotal defensive play in the victory, gunning a running out at second base after a leadoff double in the top of the seventh inning with the game tied. Ginther threw behind the runner after a pitch and was able to just sneak the throw down in time to get the out.
“I believe it was a pretty big play. Obviously, that was a huge run. Couldn’t have done it without my second baseman catching the ball and tagging him,” Ginther added.
In the monster fifth that tied the game at seven, the Cubs had five hits, including three straight singles and a triple from Blake Pongracz.
Before that, it was all Northern Lights.
They racked up seven hits through the first five innings and were seemingly unstoppable with runs in four of the first five innings until the rally started for the Cubs.
Ryker Van Buskirk was player of the game for Northern Lights. The centre fielder had two hits in the victory.
The silver medal-winning Northern Lights group out of Grande Prairie were a cinderella story on their own. They started the season in Tier II play in the NorWest Baseball League. After winning the Tier II provincials, they finished second at the Tier I championship to earn their spot at Westerners. Over the weekend in Red Deer, they went 3-1 before the loss in the final to the Cubs.