London Badgers ‘cherish’ back-to-back national baseball titles – The London Free Press
Winning a Canadian championship is hard.
Winning two Canadian championships back-to-back, especially with young players, is remarkable.
The London Badgers 18U team managed the trick when they defeated Etobicoke 5-4 in Fort McMurray on Sunday to take the 18U national baseball championship for the second year in succession.
The Badgers won last year’s national title in the same age group when the tournament was played in London. Many of those players were 17.
“We’ve never had that where we’ve had a whole team medal, the same players, medal back-to-back,” said 18U coach Mike Lumley. “It’s hard to do especially with kids this age because usually half a team is gone or they are off to school.
“The team that won last year was basically all 17-year-olds with a couple of additions from Windsor. This team was basically all the players from last year with a couple of 17-year-old callups.”
But what looked to be an easy win for the Badgers provided plenty of excitement in the last inning on Sunday. The Badgers led 5-1 going into the bottom of the seventh thanks to some fine pitching by Zack Gazendam.
Etobicoke finally got to him with one out in the inning, scoring a pair of runs to cut the lead to 5-3 with a runner on base. Lumley brought in one of his 17-year-old relievers, Mason Newell. He gave up a hit, bringing the game to 5-4 with a runner on second. But Newell got the last two outs to give the Badgers the national championship.
“They are another tough team,” Lumley said of Etobicoke. “I didn’t think ‘they’re going to fall asleep.’ They are in a championship. They ran a couple of hits together and definitely made it interesting.”
This is the sixth national title for this age group of Badgers players.
“Some of them are easier, some are harder,” Lumley said. “All week we had a lot of tight games and the last one was looking like the easiest one we would have all week, but it turned into something a little more hectic than it should have been.
“We say it’s like a chess match. You just have to react to what happens. As coaches you have to decide what to do. You have five seconds to make a decision.”
The Badgers made it to the final by going 3-1 in pool play and then defeating Alberta 1-0 in the semifinal.
They defeated New Brunswick 9-1, Saskatchewan 5-3, lost to Quebec 4-3 and defeated British Columbia 6-5.
Zane Livingstone knocked in the winning run in the sixth inning against Alberta. Connor Ambroglio went seven innings, striking out nine.
Lumley says despite all the championships every one is a little different and every one of them is cherished.
“They are all special because for me it’s all about the kids and the relationship with them” he said. “It isn’t so much ‘Aww, another notch.’ I never think of it that way. I think of it as this group of kids, this group of players, that’s what it’s about. You grow with them. Some of these kids I’ve seen since they were 10 years old.
“So you grow with them as you see them. Now you are in a championship and this may be the last year for some of them.”
Winning championships is a testament to more than just the baseball development of the players and the quality of the Badgers organization.
“It’s one thing we always preach in the organization that it’s all about being like a family,” Lumley said. “These guys work with our youngest guys, kind of mentor them and bring them up. We get to know all the families so it’s not like this is my team and that’s all I’m going to deal with.
“We’re getting people from all over our organization calling and texting us telling us about how awesome it is. They rally behind each other.”