OWEN SOUND - The goal for Stratford Cubs is simple: win a medal here at the Canadian Junior men’s fastball championship.
The nine-team tournament begins Aug. 5, with a national champion slated to be crowned on Aug. 11.
“The first step is to make the playoffs, and then hopefully bring home a medal,” Cubs’ skipper Murray Patterson says. “It’s the old cliché, but it’s one game at a time. We feel we have a shot at getting to a medal game.”
Patterson is taking a 17-player roster north to Owen Sound, including three pick-ups. They are outfielder Adam Stuck, from the Owen Sound Juniors, pitcher-outfielder Kent Wardell, of Caledonia, and middle infielder-pitcher Tyler Pauli, of Mitchell.
“I would consider him one of the top three to five batters in the province in Junior ball,” Patterson says of Stuck. “And he’ll be playing at home, which always helps.”
Wardell will likely get lots of throwing time as teams play eight round-robin games before the playoffs.
Pauli is a member of the Fullarton Midgets. “We’re looking at him as a middle infielder, who will also do a little pitching for us,” Patterson says. “And he’s a pretty good batter as well.”
Stratford is one of four Ontario teams; the others are host Keady Jets, Wiarton and Napanee who will all be strong. There are two teams from Alberta, including Irma Tigers who are projected to be one of the tourney favourites. Another contending club will come from Newfoundland.
Cubs open an eight-game round-robin schedule against Calahoo, Alta. on Aug. 5.
After the week-long schedule of preliminary games, teams will be seeded one to nine for the playoffs. The top two teams will likely get a double-life. It’s elimination for the other teams as soon as they lose.
“Only three teams will make it to Sunday, the three teams playing for the medals,” Patterson says. “You could play four playoff games (two on Friday and two more on Saturday) just to get to Sunday.
“If we fall into that scenario, the more pitchers who can chew up an inning or two, the better off you’re going to be.”
The “sand” diamonds in Owen Sound slow his fast team down a little on the base paths, Patterson admits. It’s one reason they added sluggers such as Stuck and Pauli.
“We needed to add a couple of long-ball threats to our line-up because everybody knows we’re a speed team,” the coach said. “But the sand slows us down, and we needed a little more power to go up there.”
Cubs opt out of league playoffs
The first-place Cubs, meanwhile, are not taking part in their South Perth League playoff tournament, which takes place this coming weekend.
“We didn’t want to take the chance of somebody getting hurt,” Patterson said. “Even if we only played three games, that’s 21 more innings on our (pitchers’) arms.
“We’re looking at a minimum of nine games in five days in Owen Sound, assuming we don’t finish in the top two. If it rains, you could play three games in a day (in the playoff round).”