The Hamilton Cardinals put together a five-game win streak to claim the championship of the 12th Annual Mike Ohara Midget Canada Day Wood Bat baseball tournament in York in dramatic home run fashion.
Hamilton opened weekend play with a 4-3 win over Kitchener, followed by an 11-1 decision over North York. Host team York fell 6-2 sending to Hamilton to the semi-finals. In the that game, the Cards were 8-1 winners over West Toronto and then claimed the title with a 6-5 game against Newmarket.
In the opening game, Hamilton was trailing 3-0 going into the sixth inning. But a pair of runs made the score 3-2 and two more runs in the final inning gave Hamilton the game. Starting pitcher Justin O’Reilly pitched a solid six innings and reliever Hayden Waslechuk held Kitchener in check.
Mental mistakes made by the Cardinals on defense allowed the Panthers to get the upper hand early. But Hamilton took advantage of Kitchener pitching changes and errors to rally. Gavin Barnard drove in the winning run.
The Cardinals mercied North York in the fifth inning for their second decision, highlighted by a great pitching performance by Travis Tomlinson. Hamilton’s offence was highlighted by a key hit by David Vanderby who started a seven-run fourth inning. Grant Preece. Who excelled in the outfield on defence, executed a perfect bunt, Richard Minken and Aaron Dinatale had RBI hits.
In the third game, the Cardinals scored first in the second inning, led by Aaron Dinatale’s and Grant Preece’s RBI hits that plated three runs. Preece drove in another run in the next inning.
York battled back in the fourth to score its two runs. But a stellar double play by second baseman Richard Minken and shortstop Gavin Barnard ended the threat.
Hamilton rebounded in the sixth inning to add another run from Marlon Krupa. Cardinals starting pitcher David Vanderby went five solid innings and Dinatale pitched two strong innings in relief.
The semi-finals pitted Hamilton against their Ontario Baseball Association rivals, West Toronto, who lost against the Cards at the 2011 provincial Minor Midget tournament. But West Toronto were up against a red hot Hamilton team, which opened the scoring in the first with two runs, added two more in the third, and four in the fifth inning.
Hamilton starting pitcher Adam Prodeus had a stellar appearance and held his opponents at bay until the sixth inning when West Toronto scored its lone run.
Championship home run
The championship game proved to be a nail-biter.
Hamilton Starter Marlin Krupa was relieved by Gavin Barnard in the second inning with the bases loaded. A walk brought in Newmarket’s first run before Barnard struck out the last batter. While Hamilton was trying to solve Newmarket’s pitching and defence, their opponents added runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 3-0 lead.
Hamilton made another pitching change in the sixth inning, sending in left hander Justin O’Reilly, who kept Newmarket off the scoreboard.
In the bottom of the inning, Hamilton started its comeback with David Vanderby reaching base on a single and eventually stealing home for the Cards first run. Braden Johnson tried stretching a single into a double but was thrown out at second base.
With one out, Barnard reached base and was brought home by Christian Nunez. Facing a two-out situation, O’Reilly drove a pitch into centre field to score Nunez and tie the game.
Hamilton fielding errors led to Newmarket scoring two runs in the seventh inning to retake the lead. But in the seventh inning, Hamilton loaded the bases. Braden Johnston stepped up to the plate and delivered a ball up the middle to plate Dinatale.
With Hamilton trailing 5-4 and two runners on base, Barnard hit a championship home run.