A team comprised of Midget-aged players from Rainy River District Fastball League teams of Barwick, the Bulldogs, and Stratton ruled the roost at the annual Garden City Community Club ‘AA’ hardball tournament in Winnipeg on May 24-25.
The team, named by tourney organizers as “Northern Ontario” and sponsored by Barwick Service and Roseberry Runway of Barwick, finished with a 5-1 record to earn the championship in the seven-team field, dumping Charleswood 11-0 in the final.
Ken Wilson, the team’s coach and a former player with the Blue Knights, said they ran practice drills for about three weeks but weren’t sure where they stacked up against the competition.
“We had no real sense where we stood in terms of hardball skills,” he said. “We knew the team had plenty of fastball talent but were apprehensive about competing at this level of hardball.”
Wilson admitted some adjustments were made from game to game. They opened play with an 11-0 loss to St. Boniface. But from there, they settled in and beat Springfield 20-11, downed Charleswood 10-4, and knocked out River Heights 11-2.
Their toughest game, said Wilson, awaited them in the semi-finals against the tough Springfield team.
Northern Ontario jumped to an early lead and entered the seventh and final inning with a 14-6 advantage. Springfield managed to scored three quick runs to draw within five but that was as close as they got.
Kevin Gemmell and Cole Kaemingh split pitching duties, each playing in three games.
Other players on the team were Travis Derkson, Mathew Gamsby, Mike Anderson, Jason Landry, Vaughan Wilson, Jason Keller, Wade Strong, and Jock Gemmell.
“By the end of the tournament, the entire team was playing super,” said Wilson. “We had some towering home runs from Kevin and Vaughan, and several perfect defensive plays from Travis, Jason, and Jock.”
The team plans to stay together this summer. They’re currently arranging exhibition games with the Baudette and Warroad Legion teams, as well as an entry into an American Legion tournament or a ‘AAA’ Midget tourney in Manitoba.