Tillsonburg Burns Demeyere and Associates Major Mosquitoes triumphed at the OBA C baseball championships in Wallaceburg on the weekend.
The Otters started the tourney Friday evening, played three games Saturday, and were still undefeated winning two more Sunday to clinch the championship.
"Saturday night's game was probably the most intense game," said Burns Demeyere and Associates coach Scott Zeller, recalling the game that led into Sunday's semifinals.
"The kids had a late night Friday, and two games already Saturday. And it was a late one Saturday, it didn't start until after 9 p.m. So already the kids were already exhausted playing against LaSalle, who had only played one game that day. So they (LaSalle) was fresh and ready to go."
Tillsonburg trailed 6-4 going into the top of the seventh, but the Otters 'rallied up.'
"Josh King got the guys – all of them – fired up."
The BDA Otters came back in the top of the seventh to score four runs to take an 8-6 lead going into the bottom half.
"Devin Hawley came in (to pitch) the bottom of the seventh to shut them down, striking out two, then a line-out to second base."
The big reward for winning Saturday night's game – which ended at 11 p.m. – was an opportunity for the Otters to sleep in Sunday morning.
"If you lost Saturday, you played at 9 a.m. Sunday, and the hotel (in Chatham) was 30 minutes away. If you won, you got to sleep in and not play until noon. So the kids knew what they were playing for – it was extra sleep.
"To get both late games – and it was just a draw – was extremely difficult. If we didn't come back and win that (Saturday) game, the kids would have got back at the hotel at 11:30, in bed just before 12 (midnight), and back at the diamond by 8 p.m. So they would have had to be up by 7 a.m. - very little sleep. So it was a very crucial, very important game."
The long commute back to Chatham, which was shared by most of the teams in the tournament, also made it difficult to enjoy down time at the hotel – they had two-hour Saturday games scheduled at 12, 4 and 8:30 p.m. They could not get back to the hotel between games. And they didn't get to enjoy the pool, which Zeller said every player noted.
"The bonding they do outside the diamond, it's what they look forward to. But there was absolutely zero pool time, no arcade time. Staying outside on that day... it was 40 C, humid, hot. Trying to keep the kids cool was extremely challenging, until 8 p.m. when the sun went down.
"That was their biggest complaint," Zeller laughed. "When do we get to go swimming?"
The 8-6 win Saturday turned out to be their closest game in the tournament.
"At that point, when they all got together, cheered and celebrated, they realized the accomplishments that they did to win that game," said Zeller, who recalled thinking, 'I don't know if we win OBAs if it will match what just happened right now.'
After knocking out Belle River with a mercy in the semifinals, they would face Leamington, who had eliminated LaSalle, in the final.
"The biggest thing in these tournaments is pitch count. And one of the things we're really happy with is that we have 12 kids on the team and all 12 can pitch. And all 12 of them had an opportunity to pitch at one point in this tournament. So every kid – all 12 of them – had a chance to get up on the mound and pitch in the OBA championships. And I think the fact that all these kids could pitch is what really led them to the championship.
"They can all throw it over the plate, and leading up to this tournament we made sure we gave them an opportunity to get that game experience. Some pitched more than others, but it was important they all had the experience. So when they were up on the mound at OBAs, they would not be nervous, upset or scared... which can happen, especially in a pressure situation. Like when Devin went in Saturday night – he was cool as a cucumber."
Belle River ran out of pitchers, said Zeller. But LaSalle, Saturday night, had one of the better pitching squads Tillsonburg's faced all season.
"Each time a new (LaSalle) pitcher went in, it felt like he was a stronger pitcher every time. Eventually our kids caught up to it in the seventh inning. Instead of trying to swing hard, they stuck their bats out. We told them we're going to win this game with singles, so let's start getting base hit after base hit after base hit. And that's exactly what happened."
Leamington also had a very strong pitcher in the final, he said, but the Otters were on fire at the plate.
"All 12 batters got up to the plate in the first inning... and I think we scored eight or night runs in the first inning of the championship game. So we got a good jump and all we had to do was hold them off. I think the final was 11-4."
There was a moment of concern for the BDA Otters when Nolan McCrossin over-ran first and twisted his knee. McCrossin was Tillsonburg's pitcher at the time.
"Brandon Balazs went in after Nolan was injured and kept the game under control."
The majority of the major mosquitoes – nine of the 12 – had graduated from last year's Major Rookie OBA championship team, making it a back-to-back title.
"We beat a lot of that Leamington team in the OBA rookie tournament last year," said Zeller. "So we faced them again this year... and even their coach said 'oh – the Tillsonburg team that beat us last year... here we go.'"
The BDA Major Mosquitoes expect to remain at the mosquito level in 2015, said Zeller, but they may examine the possibility of playing for the B title.