Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Braves put cap on ‘three-peat’

It was as though Leland Indian pushed the clouds away himself so he could get a better view of his old team.
What he saw was the Big Grassy Braves finish things off in perfect style—and continue a dynasty.

With a sunset as bright as Indian’s smile cascading down on their home field, the Braves captured their third-straight Rainy River District Fastball League title by holding off a valiant Barwick Blue Knights’ squad 5-4 in the championship final last Tuesday.
Entering the playoffs as the top seed after an undefeated regular season, the Braves tacked on another four wins in the playoffs to end up with a spotless 20-0 record.
The echoes of Indian, a former power-hitting pitcher and utility player for the Braves who died suddenly last November, were everywhere.
His son, Linden, started at first base for the Braves.
Meanwhile, his daughter, Nancy, a star pitcher for the Big Grassy Lynx women’s fastball team, proudly wore his No. 24 jersey while serving as the team’s scorekeeper before handing it off to be used in the team’s victory photo.
“In the beginning of the season, we dedicated this year to [Indian],” Braves’ second baseman Chris Jack said about his fallen teammate.
“It’s a great feeling for everyone to get this for him.”
In a rematch of last year’s final won 9-1 by Big Grassy, the second-ranked Blue Knights needed to beat the Braves twice after having suffered an earlier loss in the playoffs.
Barwick gave it all they had to push the final to a second-and-deciding game back at Oltsher Field—refusing to quit despite falling behind by four runs after five innings.
Mike Anderson first singled home Ryder Woolsey in the sixth.
He then scored on a throwing error by third baseman Don “Kimbi” Copenace on J.J. Landry’s grounder to cut the lead to 5-3 with the bases still loaded.
But Braves’ starter Travis Tom, who recently took over the ace role after regular No. 1 pitcher Jeff Morrison had to have emergency appendix surgery, escaped the jam when he got Vaughan Wilson to fly out to deep centre.
In the seventh, Brad Wakefield gave Barwick more hope with a lead-off solo homer just over the fence in left to make it a one-run game.
Kevin Gemmell followed with a single and took second on a wild pitch to get into scoring position.
But Tom, whose two-run single in the first inning opened the scoring, bore down to strike out Woolsey.
He then elicited flyouts from Anderson and Will Derkson to end the rally and the game.
Jack had a bases-loaded single to cap the three-run first before Dakota Andy’s RBI groundout made it 4-0 in the second.
The Blue Knights got on the board in the third when Gemmell doubled home Wilson.
But he was thwarted from stretching it into a triple on an outstanding throw from left-fielder Ryan Jack to Copenace that arrived at third just before Gemmell did.
Copenace later raced home on a wild pitch by Landry in the fourth to make it 5-1.
Chris Jack pointed to team chemistry as the main reason behind the Braves’ string of championships, which he hopes will extend to four in a row next season.
“Everyone knows each other so well,” he remarked.
“We’re practically a family.”
The awards banquet for both the men’s and women’s leagues will be held Sept. 19 starting at 6 p.m. at the Fort Frances Legion.

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