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Tom's play key in Braves' successful title defence

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The Dawson Tigers knew early on that Travis Tom was on his game.

Tom was a wizard on the rubber and with the bat—tossing a no-hitter and clubbing a pair of homers—to help pace his squad to an 11-0 rout of the Dawson Tigers in the deciding game of the Rainy River District Fastball League championship series last Tuesday evening at Couchiching.

Mike Parisien and Chris Bourgeois also smacked homers for the Braves, who claimed their second-straight league crown.

“I really can't say for sure if I remember there being a no-hitter thrown in a league championship game,” said league president Vaughan Wilson.

“I know there have been a few instances where guys have had exceptionally dominant performances, but for 'Travy' to accomplish that against Dawson . . . that's really something!”

“He was huge tonight,” teammate Mike Parisien added of Tom.

"[We] came off a big win in the East Division final there, that was a big win for him, so we rode with the hot guy there.

“He came up big when we needed him, he's a big leader on this team and a big part of this team,” he lauded.

“So, he came through for us really well and everybody kind of feeds off of it, too,” Parisien added.

“He was keeping us in the game with ground balls, fly balls, so it was making it easier for us on defence to win the game.”

It was the Braves' second championship since moving to Fort Frances at the start of the 2015 season.

They defeated the Barwick Blue Knights in three games last year and previously won three-straight titles as the Big Grassy Braves from 2012-14.

Fort Frances had taken the opener of the best-of-three final this year by a 3-2 margin over Dawson back on Aug. 14, walking them off on Cole Tymkin's single in the bottom of the seventh.

Tigers' starter Jeff Morrison started the game off well last Tuesday, striking out both Dakota Andy and Jaden Gustafson.

But his fortune quickly changed as he followed that up by allowing back-to-back homers to Tom and Bourgeois as the Braves took a 2-0 lead.

Tom then staked his squad to a four-run cushion in the top of the third with a deep two-run shot to centre field for his second big fly of the night.

The Braves then had a bat-around inning in the top of the fourth, tacking on four more runs to push the game out of reach at 8-0.

“I think it's all a team effort, everybody in the lineup—guys on the field, guys on the bench—everybody picking each other up,” Parisien said of the Braves' success over the past few seasons.

"Good pitching, good 'D', good and timely hitting.

“Everybody kind of comes through at their own time, just a team effort, nobody really sticks out,” he reasoned.

“Everybody just plays their own part and it's a whole team effort.”

Tom took the game from there, letting the Tigers' hitters know he wasn't going to be touched and struck out the side in both the fifth and seventh.

Mike Parisien smacked a deep two-run bomb to left before an RBI single from Gustafson capped the scoring in the top of the seventh.

Tom finished the game with 10 strikeouts and allowed just two walks in the most dominant performance by any pitcher in the RRDFL this season.

Morrison was saddled with the season-ending loss for the Tigers, allowing eight runs and striking out six in four innings of work.

“It's pretty good, it's a pretty good feeling there,” said Parisien said of securing a second-straight RRDFL title.

"We had a big win in Game 1 to give us the lead in the series.

“So, it was nice that we could finish it off and not have a Game 3,” he concluded.

Wilson said that he believes the RRDFL season went well, even with some new changes to how the schedule runs.

“The weather cooperated, teams made up their games on time, and we were able to stick to our playoff start date,” he remarked.

"It was a little different this season with only 16 games, as the last few years we've played 18, and we started a week earlier than usual.

“This was all done to avoid running the playoffs into September,” Wilson reasoned.

“So we achieved that goal, but we may need to tweak it a bit again next year to run it a little longer for every team.”

Wilson also noted that the league was interrupted by two North American Fastpitch Association tournaments during the playoffs, but that they had planned for beforehand, so it wasn't an issue.

“Again, it wasn't ideal to have some teams finished off in July,” he conceded.

“But we were really trying to avoid that September deadline.”

Wilson said the competition level was good throughout the league and felt as though the league's true best teams advanced to, and battled it out, in the championship series.

“The Braves were dominant all season, as were the Dawson Tigers, and those two teams represented our best,” he lauded.

"Again, Couchiching was gracious enough to allow us to use their diamond for the final series, and we really appreciate it.

“Having lights allows us to make sure both teams can free up key players from their work commitments,” he noted.

"And starting later in the evening allows us to put the best [quality of] teams against each other.

“I'd like to congratulate both the Dawson Tigers and Fort Frances Braves for winning their division titles and the Braves for being crowned the league champions for the second-straight season,” Wilson concluded.

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