The Rutland Rockies shaded the Vernon Canadians 7-6 Sunday night in the finals of the Vernon Bantam AA Invitational Baseball Tournament.
The C’s played extremely well on the hottest weekend of the year, defeating Salmon Arm 14-12 Friday night, grounding the South Okanagan Tigers of Penticton 11-6 Saturday and losing 12-7 to Rutland earlier Sunday.
The final featured a seesaw battle with Vernon’s Matthew Hansen setting the tone for the game with a great diving catch at shortstop, tracking the ball into the outfield.
Alex Tonge frustrated the Rutland batters through three innings. Vernon scored five times in the third with Ben Fortems, Hansen, Ryan Gamage, Falcon Thomas and Evan Schmidt all crossing the plate with Dakota Becker driving in the final run of the inning.
Rutland scored four in the fourth to level the score and then went ahead by one in the fifth. Hansen smacked a double past the center fielder to score Cherkowski to tie the game once again.
Rutland went ahead after a leadoff triple. Lewis registered all three outs in the inning, ending it with an unassisted double play to keep it close. The C’s could not answer back with their last bats.
On Sunday morning, Gamage started on the mound against Rutland, helping his own cause with a double in the third inning.
Tonge and Thomas also hit monster doubles later in the game. Ryan Vandesande was great on first base in support of Gamage, also hitting a single in the third.
Cherkowski came up big on defence with three beautiful catches in right field against a strong hitting Rutland team. Fortems and Schmidt came on in relief and kept things close, but the Rutland pitchers only allowed two runs (Gamage and Tonge) in the final four innings.
The C’s and Tigers were tied 1-1 after three innings behind stingy defence and excellent pitching. Fortems started and allowed only one run in three innings of work.
This Week in Baseball-worthy defence by Tonge at shortstop helped Fortems on the hill. Braydie Allen contributed with a great play from right field to Tonge to tag the Penticton runner out at second.
Becker was great behind the plate in the scorching heat, shutting down the Tiger running game.
The C’s expoded for five runs in the fourth. Hansen and Gamage jumpstarted the attack with singles, followed by a Falcon Thomas walk and inside-the-park home run from Tonge.
Tonge pitched the final 3.2 innings, striking out five.
In their opener versus Salmon Arm, Vernon jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first three innings behind the stellar hurling of Evan Schmidt with six K’s over four innings. Schmidt also scored three times.
The Canadians’ bats came alive in the second with great station to station hitting from Cherkowski, Hansen, Gamage and Thomas driving home Schmidt, Hayden Lewis, Braydie Allen and Ben Fortems, who all got on base with walks.
The Canadians clumped their runs together scoring four more in the third and five in the sixth. Hansen and Tong were both 3-for-4. The C’s held on despite a seven-run rally by Salmon Arm in the seventh.
Mike Lewis and Blair Hansen are co-head coaches, assisted by Keith Becker and Dusty Webber.