A terrific start gave way to an early playoff exit for the Abbotsford Junior Cardinals at the B.C. Junior Premier Baseball League provincial championship tournament.
The local under-16 squad opened the tourney, held this past week at Langley’s McLeod Athletic Park, with a pair of victories. They edged the Coquitlam Redlegs in thrilling fashion in their first game on Thursday, as Tanner Rempel and Branden Gill drove in runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift the Abby club to 2-1 walk-off win. Alex Gibbons went the distance on the mound, registering three strikeouts and zero walks.
Abbotsford followed with a 4-1 win on Friday over the Okanagan Junior Athletics behind another tremendous complete-game pitching performance – this one from John Lipp, who struck out six.
But the North Shore Junior Twins derailed the Junior Cards’ title aspirations at that point.
The Abby squad had a chance to punch their ticket directly to the semifinals with a win in their last round-robin game Saturday, but North Shore, which had finished first in the BCJPBL regular season standings with a 35-9 record, won 8-1.
That meant the two teams were tied for second in their pool and had to play a sudden-death tiebreaker Sunday morning, and North Shore prevailed once again by a score of 5-0. They went on to win the championship, beating Langley 7-2 in the final.
Junior Cards coach Shawn Besse pointed out his team wasn’t intimidated by North Shore – they beat the Junior Twins two weeks ago to end their 21-game winning streak. But the Abby offence simply couldn’t find traction against the league leaders at provincials.
“We had a great year,” Besse said, alluding to his team’s 26-18 regular season record, tied for third-best in the league.
“It’s disappointing to lose, but we ended up facing the No. 1 team back-to-back days, and that wasn’t going to be an easy task. Our bats did dry up a little bit those two games – we just couldn’t manufacture any runs when we had the opportunity, and that set us back and gave them momentum.”
Abbotsford Junior Cardinals pitcher Alex Gibbons opened the provincial tournament with an outstanding performance vs. Coquitlam. (John Morrow photo)