Athletes don’t necessarily dream of winning a silver medal, but a second-place finish at the B.C. Junior Premier Baseball League provincials was a breakthrough result for the Abbotsford Junior Cardinals.
The local under-16 boys squad has established itself as an elite regular-season team in recent years, finishing with the BCJPBL’s best record in 2008 and ’09 and with the second-best record in 2010.
But despite that success, they’d fallen in the league semifinals four consecutive years.
“We broke that curse and made it to the final this time,” Junior Cards coach Shawn Besse noted with a chuckle. “A silver medal is great for our organization.
“All in all, it was a great team effort, and our pitching staff really stepped up and pitched extremely well.”
The Junior Cards, who came into the provincial tourney in Surrey as the third seed, tore through the round robin undefeated with wins over the Coquitlam Redlegs (3-2), the White Rock Junior Tritons (4-0) and the North Shore Junior Twins (7-1).
In the semifinals against the Vancouver Junior Cannons, Abbotsford got a tremendous complete-game pitching performance from J.J. Pankratz, while Liam Kano-McGregor (4-for-4, two RBI) and Joel VanEe (2-for-3, two RBI) sparked the offence in a 9-2 win.
But in the final, Victoria Junior Mariners pitcher Tanner Hess scattered seven hits over seven innings, and Mitch Bryan’s bases-loaded single in the third inning supplied all the offence the Island squad would require in a 7-2 victory.
“We just couldn’t get a clutch hit and couldn’t catch a break,” Besse said. “Victoria scored four runs with two outs, so they got the timely hits, and that made the difference.”