After placing second at the Dryden Labatt’s men’s fastball tournament last year, the Sunset Merchants came out on top this time around, dumping the Landmark Alliance 5-1 in the ‘A’ final Sunday afternoon.
The Merchants rode the strong pitching of John Desaulniers, and played flawless defence, in downing the Manitoba squad, winners of the silver medal at the Canadian junior tournament three years ago.
Desaulniers surrendered just four hits en route to the victory, and was named the MVP pitcher in the championship game.
Tom Woolsey put the Merchants on the board first with a solo home run in the bottom of the third, then he drove in the second run when his hard ground ball with two out in the fourth was booted, allowing George Oltsher to score from third base.
Oltsher had led off the inning with an infield single.
But the big blow came in the fifth when third baseman Guy Arpin blasted a three-run shot to left-centre that made it 5-0.
Desaulniers then retired six of the next eight batters, giving up Landmark’s lone run in the seventh inning.
The Merchants reached the final with a 5-3 win over the Toledo Red Dogs (Winnipeg), snapping a 0-0 tie with three runs in the fifth and then pushed across two more in the top of the seventh for a five-run lead.
But Toledo didn’t roll over and play dead, scoring three runs in the bottom of the inning, and had runners on second and third with two out, when Desaulniers got the last batter to fly out to right field to end the game.
Arpin, the team’s veteran cleanup hitter, said the wins against the top two Manitoba squads highlighted the tournament.
“We have played the Red Dogs before and we always had close games but we couldn’t score a run,” he said, noting Toledo had blanked the Merchants 5-0 in last year’s final.
“You look at the Red Dogs and the Alliance, those are the two best teams in Winnipeg, and it just felt great to beat them,” he added.
Arpin said although the team was blessed with some solid pitching from Desaulniers (he picked up three of the team’s six victories), it was a total team effort that won the championship.
“[John] was outstanding [on the mound] for us but it wasn’t just him. We also played great defence without [committing] any errors,” he stressed.
The Merchants, comprised of players from the Rainy River District Fastball League, finished first in their pool with a perfect 3-0 record. After opening with an 8-2 win over Canadian Lumber (Winnipeg) on Saturday morning, they beat the Wabigoon Braves 5-3 and later edged the Oxdrift Bulls 5-4.
Then they trounced Dryden Husky 8-1 in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, the Emo Bulldogs lost 5-4 to Wabigoon in the ‘B’-final at Dryden, giving up the winning run in the bottom of the seventh after Glen Kellar had tied the score with a two-run homer in the top half.
Emo also won all three of their pool games—downing the Barry Misfits 12-0, Dryden Husky 8-6, and Sioux Lookout 8-2—and were seeded number-two heading into the playoff round.
But they were blanked 4-0 by the Red Dogs in the quarter-finals Sunday morning to drop to the ‘B’-side.
The Pinewood Bears was the other RRDFL team that participated in the Dryden tournament but they failed to advance to the playoffs after finishing with an 0-2-1 mark in their pool.
After opening with a 6-0 loss to Landmark, the Bears tied the JP Rebels (Dryden) 7-7 but, and then lost 10-9 to the Dryden Raiders.