The University of the Fraser Valley Cascades haven’t been able to play any meaningful baseball this fall, but on Saturday they got a reminder of what they play for.
The 2019 Cascades were given championship rings for winning the Canadian Colleges Baseball Conference title, the first in the program’s short three-year history.
“This team is a family. That’s why we won and that’s why that trophy is sitting over there right now,” said Liam Campbell, a veteran player and team leader, as he pointed to the CCBC trophy on a nearby table. “No one was selfish. It wasn’t one individual. It was the entire team. We all worked together like a well-oiled machine. The great group of guys that we had and we have is going to keep this program growing and growing and growing.
“Looking back at that championship tournament, they told us we’d be (knocked) out by Friday. Well, it’s been 75 Fridays since then and we’re still the champs.”
Campbell is right about the way UFV won the title.
After losing their tournament opener in Kamloops, 7-4 to the Calgary Dinos, the Cascades had their backs to the wall and had to rattle off four straight wins just to make the final.
Once they were there, their best-of-three against the Okanagan College Coyotes went the distance, decided by a winner-takes-all game three.
Sophomore centre fielder Stephen Horner led the offence in the clincher, racking up a seven RBIs with a home run, two doubles and a walk. Campbell picked up the win on the mound, coming on in relief of starter Ian Zwartz to toss four and one-third innings of shutout ball.
The catcher/utility player has been with the program from day one and thought it fitting that the ring ceremony was held on a day where strong gusts of wind pounded the walls of the baseball training facility in Chilliwack.
“Our first year, the wind blew the roof off this place,” the Chilliwackian said with a laugh. “Pouring rain soaked all our equipment. The med(icine) balls. The baseballs. Everything. A few guys helped bring it all to my garage to try and dry it out, and that was the first time this program faced real adversity.
“The reason we’re here getting these rings today is because we overcame adversity over and over.”
In a non-COVID world, all of the players would have been presented their rings at the same time.
But with the pandemic in mind, three separate physically-distanced ceremonies were held — two groups of 12 or so players got their rings first followed by UFV baseball staff.
The 2020 CCBC season has been disrupted by COVID-19 but the team hopes to begin defending their title in the spring.
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