A Single, A Sacrifice Bunt and A Walkoff Hit
Stingers Lose CIBA National Championship in Dramatic Fashion
Whenever a team loses a national title by one run in extra innings, chances are it’ll usually keep bad memories about the experience.
For Concordia’s baseball team and their manager Howie Schwartz, it’s just the opposite.
“We lost an incredible game,” Schwartz told The Link over the phone on Monday. “It was probably one of the best games that I have been involved in, as a player or a manager.”
Indeed, the 2013 Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association championship game between the Concordia Stingers and the Windsor Lancers, who hosted the tournament, was quite the nail-biter.
The game was a pitcher’s duel all the way to the end, with both teams going scoreless until the Windsor offence took the field in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Rookie Lancers third baseman Sully Robson quickly got on base, hitting one of Windsor’s few singles on the night. A sacrifice bunt by teammate Luke Lefler allowed Robson to advance to second base before he finally reached third base when shortstop Colin Gordner hit an infield single off Stingers pitcher Brandon Berkovitz.
With one man out and two on base, Windsor catcher Michael-Anthony Ferrato delivered a walkoff sacrifice hit to win the gold medal for the Lancers.
For the fourth time in the last seven years, the Stingers had reached the national championship game and lost.
“I was disappointed, a little bit in shock,” Berkovitz, who allowed just three hits and struck out nine players entering the ninth inning, told The Link Monday over the phone.
“After two extra innings and pitching what I felt was the game of my life […] it was hard to take in.”
Facing Windsor pitcher Zack Breault, a former Toronto Blue Jays prospect who played two games for their Class A affiliate the Vancouver Canadians, Concordia had their chance to score the winning run in the seventh inning when catcher Jean-Christophe Paquin hit a long fly ball that missed the home run fence by a mere two feet.
Paquin made it to the second base on the play, but was then caught out when he later tried to steal third.
“We had more chances, they had better chances,” said Schwartz, who nonetheless remained positive despite the heartbreaking loss.
“I’m very, very pleased with the way the guys played,” he said. “They played their hearts out and we couldn’t have done anything more to win.”
With the best regular season record in the CIBA, 13-3, the Stingers headed to nationals confident the championship was theirs for the taking.
Their confidence wasn’t unfounded: the team outplayed the York Lions and Saint-Mary’s University, 13-0 and 12-3, respectively, on day 1 of the playoffs.
In the semi-finals the next day, the Stingers faced a well-known rival: the Carleton Ravens, who they had beaten just the week before in the Northern Conference finals.
The Stingers repeated the feat over the weekend, taking down the Ravens 5-1 on Saturday to advance to the national championship game on Sunday.
But the Concordia offence, which had carried the team throughout the postseason leading up to the game, was unable to find its rhythm. The Stingers struck out a collective 15 times and earned just three hits on the day as they were unable to bring the banner home, something they haven’t done since 2009.
“Baseball is a game of inches and in the end, there’s only one winner,” said Schwartz.
The silver lining for the Stingers: their 14 rookies from this season will be back with a year of experience under their belts next year.
“Next year we’re going to be better,” said Schwartz.