This article originally ran Sept. 11, 2015.
Editor’s Note: This article originally ran Sept. 11, 2015. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic we are tapping into our archives more, particularly for arts and sports. This special section will return to its regular schedule when the crisis concludes.
By Mitch Goldenberg
After falling in the provincial bantam AAA finals, the Spruce Grove White Sox quickly regrouped in a bid to end their season on a positive note at the Western Canadian championships last month in Steinbach, Man.
It didn’t start very well. The Sox dropped their first two games to Regina and the host squad, the Carillon Sultans, making their road to the finals a lot tougher.
“We felt like we should have done better at provincials and we had something to prove at Westerns,” said catcher Matt Gough. “We were focused, we all had the same goal. But the first couple games we were nervous, it was a pretty big stage.”
The Sox finally broke through in the middle of their third game, where they beat Saskatoon 8-2.
They never looked back.
Spruce Grove won four straight games, the final one an 11-4 victory over Carillon, to win the gold medal at the tournament and finish their season with a victory.
“Baseball has so much to do with confidence, when nobody is going, people feel like they have to do it all themselves,” said coach Kevin Inch. “All of a sudden, you get a hit and it’s a different story.”
Once the Sox got rolling in the win against Saskatoon, they scraped out a 6-4 win over South Central to advance to the semifinals. Facing the best quality pitching they had all year versus the Okanogan A’s, the Sox forced their way to home plate, capitalizing on a balk and a wild pitch.
The Sox hung on for a 3-1 win over the A’s to advance to the finals.
“It was the best game I have been a part of,” said Inch. “It was an emotional close ball game.”
The Sox then exploded for six runs in the first two innings of the championship game, giving them some breathing room in the finals en route to the title.
“We knew we could do it physically, but if we were not mentally into the game, we could not do it,” said Gough. “When everyone was playing the way we were supposed to, we had lots of confidence. We can play when times are tough, you’re never out of it until you’re out.”
Making the victory even more impressive was the fact that the Sox were missing two of their best players, Adam Macko and LaRon Smith, who were playing in the Western Canada Summer Games with Team Alberta.
“They were really crucial to what we were doing, not just their talent, they were leaders,” said Inch, who called up some players from other teams in the province to fill the roster.
The result is sweet, but Inch says you can’t underestimate the opportunity participating in this tournament had provided for the local players.
“These kids have been exposed to situations where they are playing with the game on the line,” said Inch. “The way they are being brought up, it is really exciting for the program.”
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