JJ Landry made sure the underdogs were kept on a leash.
The right-hander tossed a four-hit, complete-game shutout to lead the top-seeded Barwick Blue Knights to a 6-0 road win over the third-ranked Stratton Eagles on Tuesday in Game 2 of the West Division final of the Rainy River District Fastball League.
That sets up a match-up of the two top teams during the regular season when the East Division champion Rainy Lake Pirates face the Blue Knights in the opener of the best-of-three final tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Oltsher Field in Barwick.
In an intriguing twist, the teams agreed to play the entire series in Barwick despite the Pirates having home-field advantage.
A large portion of the Pirates’ roster live at Big Grassy First Nation, so playing the series in Barwick will reduce travel time instead of them having to drive to their normal home diamond at St. Francis Sports Field here.
Those Big Grassy players were the core of the now-disbanded Big Grassy Braves who won the past three league titles—the last two coming at the expense of the Knights.
The Eagles had handed the Knights their first loss of the double-elimination playoffs a week ago in Barwick to force the West final to a second-and-deciding game.
But Stratton’s upset hopes were negated by a clutch performance by Landry, who walked only two batters while fanning nine.
The Knights struck for two runs in the first off Eagles’ starter Guy Arpin, then doubled its lead in the third sparked by Ryder Woolsey’s solo home run.
Kevin Gemmell flashed his home run-king abilities in the fifth by narrowly clearing the centre-field fence for a lead-off solo shot that made it 5-0.
Gemmell later walked to lead off the seventh and wound up scoring the final run.
As for the Rainy River District Women’s Fastball League, its championship will have to wait until next week to be settled.
Game 2 of the final between the third-ranked Northwest Bay Beavers and fourth-seeded Red Gut Babes (the two-time defending champs) was scheduled for last night.
But the rain that fell for most of the day necessitated the game to be postponed until Monday at 6 p.m. in Northwest Bay.
The Beavers nipped the Babes 12-11 in eight innings in Game 1 on Monday at Red Gut Bay.
That was the Babes first loss of the double-elimination playoffs and forced the series to a second-and-deciding game.