The Hamilton Cardinals almost capped their inaugural season in Minor Bantam play with a provincial championship on the weekend.
The Hamilton club, which captured first place in Central Ontario Baseball Association play with a record of 18-3-2, made its way to the Ontario Baseball Association final on the Labour Day weekend, only to lose 5-0 to the Peterborough Tigers in the double-knockout affair.
Hamilton opened tournament play against the Pickering Red Sox and lost, 4-1.
The Red Sox scored one run in the first but the Cards tied it up in the fourth when Nick Bird shot a double to left and Noah Ferko followed with a run-scoring two-sacker.
This was a true pitchers’ duel with most innings seeing three up-three down. Justin Snow was on the mound for the Cardinals and did an awesome job throwing the maximum 90 pitches. The score remained 1-1 heading into the top of the seventh when the Red Sox took charge with three runs.
Needing a win or be eliminated, the Cardinals squeaked out a 1-0 decision over the North London Nationals. Hamilton scored its lone run in the fourth inning. Matthew Grabstas reached first after being hit by a pitch. Brett Filko laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the baserunner. A.J. Tomlinson’s single plated Grabstas.
Starter Adam Del Fabbro earned the shut-out win after 6 1/3 innings, 92 pitches and 22 batters. Alex Davy closed the game for the save.
Hamilton then dispatched the Niagara Falls Falcons, 10-6. The Cardinals took charge early and led 8-2 in the fifth. But the Falcons did not go down without a fight and staged a four-run rally in the seventh.
Filko had an awesome start on the mound with Davy and Tomlinson providing strong relief for the win.
Next up for the Cards were regular season rivals, the Burlington Bulls, in a see-saw nail-biter that was won 7-6 by Hamilton in dramatic fashion.
Filko returned to the hill, throwing 91 pitches.
Hamilton scored first but Burlington knotted the affair at 1-1 in the fourth. The Bulls added two more in the fifth for a 3-1 margin.. A run by Ferko in the sixth had the Cardinals behind by one but the Bulls earned three more for a 6- 2 score in the top of the seventh.
The Cards’ Del Fabbro reached on a single and Zach Moyler followed with another safety. A timely walk by Grabstas loaded the bases with none out. Bird cracked a two-run double to bring the Cards within two.
Ferko ripped another double to drive in two more runs to tie the game and still no outs. Snow stroked a single that moved Ferko to third. Matthew Araujo laid down a text book, sacrifice bunt up the first base line to score Ferko and the winning run.
Literally minutes later, the Cardinals were back on the diamond to face the Windsor Walker Homesites Hawks. And again victory would come by one run, 4-3.
Buoyed by the tight contest with the Bulls, the Cardinals didn’t get down when the Hawks took a two run lead in the top the first. They answered back with a run in their half of the opening inning and added two in the third.
The Hawks tied the game 3-3 in the fifth and it would remain unchanged to force extra innings.
Snow pitched an excellent game, finishing with 91 pitches. Elliott Graham came in for the close and shut the Hawks down.
In the bottom of the eighth, Moyler reached on with a single, Grabstas drew a walk, and Bird slashed a drive to right-centre, enabling Moyler to bolt for home. A great throw from the outfielded resulted in a collision at the plate and when the dust settled Moyler was safe and Bird had the game winning RBI.
And if the day wasn’t exciting enough up to that point, the Cardinals found themselves in a name-draw situation to determine who would get a bye into the championship final.
Of the originating 12 team, three remained with a loss a piece: the Red Sox; the Tigers and the Cardinals. Because the Red Sox had already earned a bye in round-robin play, the Tigers and Cardinals were eligible for a bye to the finals. Their names were placed in the tournament convenor’s hat and Hamilton won the bye.
As fate would have it, the Tigers would meet the Cardinals in the final.
The Cardinals couldn’t solve the Tigers pitching and were held hitless in the contest.