Concordia baseball team’s season ends

Ousted by the Redbirds in the playoffs, issues present all year lend to early exit

A Stingers player takes the plate. Courtesy Maïa Salhofer

On Oct. 14, as hugs and handshakes were solemnly exchanged between members of the Concordia Stingers baseball team, the lingering feeling following their playoff elimination to the McGill Redbirds was one of deep reflection.

The group shared the same thought: this young team still has much to learn. 

Saturday’s Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) playoff doubleheader saw McGill’s pitching staff dominate the Stingers lineup. Through two games, the Stingers mustered one hit. Additionally, the inability to capitalize with runners in scoring position, injuries plaguing Concordia’s roster and mistakes defensively lent to outcomes of 11-1—a mercy rule was called in the bottom of the sixth inning—and 4-0, both in favour of the Redbirds. 

“Well, look, we performed today like we performed all year,” said Stingers head coach Howie Schwartz post-game. Academic ineligibility and players sidelined with injuries the day playoff play began forced him to shuffle the lineup extensively. Namely, pulling outfielder Nathan Lavoie in the sixth inning of game one so that he could start on the bump in game two. Lavoie replaced the initially pencilled starter, Riley Clahane so that Clahane could play shortstop in game two.

“It’s our season. I feel that we were snakebit,” Schwartz said. 

Schwartz is very familiar with the intangibles it takes university teams to find success. In an interview with The Link at the start of the season, the 29-year veteran skipper identified a plethora of factors which lead to the diminishing of a team’s strength from year to year. Problems like numerous graduates leaving, a sudden lack of funding and so on.

Given the slew of graduates who departed the team last year, Concordia’s problem is just that; the cohort lacks experience at the university level compared to that of its peers. McGill, for example, toted a staff who exemplified the characteristics of a team that gels well together. The Redbirds’ main feeling post-series was relief.

“I’m happy that we showed what our talent is,” said Redbirds head coach Chris Haddad following the doubleheader. “Sometimes when you play the sport, you have to still play the game, even if you’re a better team on paper or not [...] anything can happen in the playoffs.” 

On paper, the Stingers are a solid team. Players hail from elite leagues from across Canada and the United States, with credentials that include all-star selections accompanying years of high-level competition. But the jump to the university level should not be taken lightly, according to Schwartz.

“The guys that were in [the lineup], they’re all a good bunch of ballplayers with good talent,” said Schwartz. “But, they’re not ready at this level. It’s like going from double-A to the major leagues without being ready to do that. Those guys are bonafide ballplayers, but they’re just not ready.”

There is another positive for Concordia baseball. The silver lining of having a young team is collective growth.

“I think we have 13 new players,” said Lavoie. “We got really good chemistry, we really enjoyed each other, we had fun together. We made the most out of [the season].” 

A team packed with studs who have built chemistry is a necessary foundation in anticipation of next year’s competitive campaign. Despite the early off-season, there is plenty of work left to do to augment the Stingers’ mental component of the game.  

“The good thing is, [the Concordia players] got a season,” said Schwartz. “And now, we’re going to start working Nov. 5 when we head into the [Stingers] Dome. We’re going to be working on all the things they don’t know, that they need to know and all the things they need to know not to forget.”

With the Stingers gone fishing, the Redbirds will face off against the Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes on Saturday, Oct. 21. The best-of-three championship series will have a doubleheader set to start at 12 p.m., with a tentative third game schedule for the next day.