MITCHELL - St. Marys Steelworkers won the inaugural South Perth Junior Men’s fastball title here on the weekend. A short-staffed squad, John Urquhart’s crew went into the six-team tourney with only 10 players and came out with the championship late Saturday night.
Late Friday afternoon saw Steelworkers take on a much-improved Milverton team.
Matt Eidt took to the mound and did not disappoint, allowing only one run through the first four innings. St. Marys clinging to a 3-1 lead blew it wide open in the bottom of the fifth, highlighted by a massive three-run home run by catcher Fraser Urquhart.
Final score was 10-4.
Embro was the next opponent Friday and the game was played on a very wet field. Eidt was again handed the ball. Steelworkers played from behind all game and were in danger of being relegated to the loser’s side, but fought back every step of the way.
St. Marys trailed by three, with just one at-bat left. Key hits by first baseman Bret Pfiefer, third baseman Tim Ruston and Matt Eidt tied the score at 5-5. Catcher Urquhart drove in the winning run and the Steelworkers escaped with a win and were on to the undefeated game against Elmira Saturday afternoon.
Slugfest early Saturday
Steelworkers took on a very determined Elmira team on the main diamond. It also saw the team play its only bad inning of ball all weekend as Elmira found hole after hole with a number of hits that just got through in an eight-run rally in the fourth, erasing an early 4-0 St. Marys lead.
First baseman Bret Pfiefer and Urquhart had three RBI apiece each in the slugfest. Final score was Elmira 11 - St. Marys 9. Eidt took the pitching loss.
Now relegated to the loser’s side, Steelworkers faced a daunting task in that they had to play Kitchener and face Johnny Baker. The Midget-age pitching phenom is just back from a World Under-18 tourney where pitching for Team Ontario he defeated New Zealand in the final.
Baker lived up to his billing as the hard-throwing righthander kept the St. Marys bats quiet for a good part of the game and held a 3-0 advantage after five. Baker drove in all three runs for Kitchener.
The veterans on the bench would not allow Steelworkers to go down without a fight and the team responded in the bottom of the fifth with a run on lead-off single by Tim Ruston and an run-scoring double by Urquhart. Baker started to show some frustration as he had not been touched all weekend until now.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh with two out and two on, it was left up to leftfielder Eric Lindsay. As calm as his demeanor is, Lindsay took a deep breath and promptly launched a double off the left-centre field fence to tie the score 3-3 and send it to extra innings.
The International tie-breaker came into effect and Kitchener started with a runner at second. Matt Eidt, doing all he could too keep his team in the game, was tiring after throwing over 25 innings in just over 24 hours.
Kitchener could not be held back and scored two runs. Eidt once again got out of the inning and the boys knew they still had a shot. With Trevor Wilhelm at second, Bret Pfiefer promptly singled to score Wilhelm and Steelworkers took over with key hits by shortstop Brendan Near, Lindsay and Tim Ruston, driving in the winning run.
Another win for Matt Eidt and a tough loss for Johnny Baker, who may have misjudged Steelworkers’ desire to not give up.
A very tired Steelworkers team had to stay on the field and immediately play the final against Elmira. With Matt Eidt having just given all he had, the ball was put into Andrew Pearn’s hands.
The righty did all he could to hold the Elmira team down, but not before they grabbed a 3-0 advantage. Scratching and clawing their way back into it, the St. Marys boys scored two in the third to get to within one on hits by Ruston, Pearn and Pfiefer.
Then again in the fourth, Steelworkers responded with an RBI single by Urquhart to tie it 3-3.
Eidt was given the task of closing this game and took on the challenge--even with a very sore arm.
He would soon be rewarded, but first more adversity as Elmira scored a lone run in the top of the sixth to take yet another lead. In the bottom of the sixth, Pearn singled and moved to second on a passed ball and stole third to set up a clutch sacrifice fly by shortstop Brendan Near. On this particular day, Near had struggled at the plate, but really came through when it was needed most. Tied again.
The bottom of the seventh saw number 2 batter Trevor Pearn lead off with a double and the reserved second baseman gave a slight fist pump to his teammates on the bench. The drama would not continue as Matt Eidt--and deservedly so--singled up the middle to score Pearn to win it.
A very nice ending to a great team effort. Final score: Steelworkers 5 - Elmira 4.
--This only adds to the reputation that this team carries throughout the province as a team that no other team can ever take lightly.
--Lead-off batter Tim Ruston had a terrific weekend, batting over .400 and sparking many rallies.
--Catcher Fraser Urquhart put the shin pads on Friday and caught all 35 innings. Urquhart also batted .320 and led the team with 10 RBI. Defensive standouts were Eric Lindsay in left field, who killed many opposing rallies with some great catches.
The right side of the infield with Trevor Pearn and Bret Pfiefer was also strong all weekend. Matt Edit continued to take the ball without complaint and was all the team could ask for and more.
This was a total team effort and the coaching staff of Dennis Near, Dale Levy and John Urquhart are very thankful and privileged to have the commitment shown from all these players through the season.
--Steelworkers’ regular-season record was 10 wins and 7 losses. Tournament record was 9 wins, 7 losses for a very respectable overall record of 19 and 14 for this very rare homebrew team.
--Much interest was shown in Tim Ruston, Matt Eidt, Fraser Urquhart and Bret Kraemer by Napanee, Stratford, and host Keady in going to the Canadian Junior men’s championship this next week in Owen Sound (Aug. 5-11).
--The team would like to thank sponsor United Steelworkers, St. Marys Minor Ball, and especially the fans who are rediscovering great Junior men’s fastball on Thursday nights at Teddy’s. Your support is truly appreciated!