The Yorkton R. Miller’s Midget ‘AA’ Cardinals welcomed 10 other ‘AA’ teams to Yorkton this past weekend for the 2014 Saskatchewan Midget ‘AA’ Provincial Championship.
In Pool ‘A’ were the host Yorkton Cardinals, the Regina Pacers, Saskatoon Athletics, Regina Buffalos, Prince Albert Royals and pre-tournament favourite Swift Current Indians. Pool ‘B’ saw the Northeast Red Sox, Moose Jaw Canucks, Saskatoon Braves, Regina White Sox and Weyburn Beavers do battle for two semi-final spots.
The Yorkton Cardinals kicked off their 2014 Provincial campaign with a come-from-behind 11-7 win over the Regina Buffalos in Game One of the tournament.
The Buffalos caught Yorkton by surprise early in the game, jumping on Cardinals starting pitcher Shawn Pasiechnik quickly to take a 4-1 lead into the third inning, chasing Pasiechnik from the game after just 2.2 innings.
However Yorkton would not go away that easily as Jake Holinaty’s spectacular inside-the-park homerun cut the Regina lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the third inning and fired up the Cardinal bench in the process, resulting in a quick rally and a 4-4 game.
Regina regained their three run lead, touching up Yorkton reliever Jordan Bieber for three runs, two earned, in three innings of relief work, but Yorkton answered right back.
With one run already in and two men on, Cards third-year star Mason Kelley drove the ball deep over the centrefielder’s head and to the wall. Both runners would score and Kelley would also cross home plate just as the ball returned to the infield for Yorkton’s second inside-the-park homerun of the game and an 8-7 Cardinals lead.
The Cardinals would add three more in the inning to take an 11-7 lead; a lead they would not relinquish, as Kelley took the mound to quickly do away with the pesky Buffalo hitters and seal an 11-7 Yorkton victory.
Kelley picked up the win in relief giving up one hit while striking out two over 1.1 innings of work. Kelley also picked up four RBIs in the win while Holinaty (2-for-4, two RBIs), who jumpstarted the Cardinals offence back in the third inning with his inside-the-park homerun, earned Player of the Game honours for Yorkton. Connor Zaran was named Regina’s Player of the Game.
With 11 teams taking part every team had one day where they were scheduled to play more than once. For the Cardinals, that day was the opening day of the tournament. So, after an impressive opening ceremony, the Redbirds were back in action. This time the opponent was a team that head coach Tony Black and company knew little about: The Prince Albert Royals.
But while knowledge is power so is, well, pure power, as the Cardinals jumped out to a 3-1 lead after one inning and never looked back, winning the game 9-2 and upping their record to 2-0 after the opening day of Provincial play.
Holinaty picked up the win in relief, scattering four hits and a walk over 2.2 innings of work and striking out three Royals batters. Tyson Black started for Yorkton and went 2.2 innings before the pitch count of 55 chased him from the game.
Adam Niebrandt led all Cardinal batters with a 3-for-3, one triple performance however it was Holinaty once again that picked up Player of the Game honours as chosen by the opposing coach for his relief appearance, pitching win and 1-for-1, two walk, one RBI performance at the plate. “Jake is doing really well here these last few days and I’m glad he is,” offered Cardinals bench boss Tony Black of his two-time game MVP. “He was hitting a little bit of a slump here in the last few weeks. I think he was getting a little bit down on himself so it was nice to see him break out of it.
“What he did the first two games is what he is capable of doing, He’s a guy who is here to play and he’s going to play 100% every time.”
Following the game Holinaty also acknowledged that he was slumping a little bit, as everyone will do over a 50-game season, but that he never changed his routine. “I was a little frustrated during that slump but lots of practice and lots of time in the cages really helped a lot,” said the Cardinals outfielder/pitcher. “Lots of focus mentally really helped too. It’s good to get out of the slump at provincials especially.”
But when asked about his two game MVP awards, Holinaty was quick to credit others. “I feel our team played strong altogether. I think anyone on our team could be named the game MVP because they all had solid games.”
Other results of Day One: Swift Current beat the Regina Pacers 18-0, Northeast beat the Regina White Sox 15-1, Swift Current over the Saskatoon Athletics 11-0, Moose Jaw beat the Saskatoon Braves 4-2 and the White Sox beat Weyburn 8-3.
The Cardinals took a 2-0 record into Saturday night’s tilt against the Regina Pacers knowing a win would guarantee them a spot in the semi-finals.
However the game very nearly got pushed to Sunday morning as thunderstorms wreaked havoc all day long, causing the afternoon games to be delayed for hours.
Eventually the grounds crew got the fields playable once more, however Yorkton’s lone game of Day Two, which was originally scheduled for 6:00pm, was pushed back to a 10:05pm start.
The rain delay also caused tournament organizers to cut the length of the game down by two innings, meaning Saturday night’s game was just five innings instead of seven, which was fine by Yorkton as they routed the Pacers 8-0 for their third straight victory and a berth in the semi-final round on Sunday.
Caleb Bymak started and pitched all five innings for Yorkton, holding Regina to just two hits and two walks over five innings while striking out eight batters. Bymak also went 2-for-3 at the dish with one RBI while Mason Kelley went 1-for-2 with two RBIs and an intentional walk.
Bymak was named game MVP for Yorkton in Game Three of the tournament for his leading role in beating the Pacers and his effort, according to head coach Tony Black, in helping Yorkton shed their reputation as a comeback team. “Usually they’re a comeback team but with this one here they took it right from the start and kept the pressure on,” mentioned Black, continuing, “Caleb kept their hitters off balance as well.
“It’s nice to see that they could make the changes that they have to in order to compete.”
Other results from Day Two: Northeast beat Moose Jaw 7-1, the Buffalos beat the Athletics 10-6, Weyburn over the Braves 6-4, Swift Current trounced Prince Albert 14-0, Moose Jaw edged the White Sox 5-4, the Pacers beat the Athletics 11-0, Northeast beat the Braves 11-0, Swift Current slaughtered the Buffalos 15-1 and Moose Jaw got past Weyburn 5-3.
The Yorkton R. Miller’s Midget ‘AA’ Cardinals kicked off the third and final day of competition with a somewhat meaningless game against the Saskatoon Athletics as the A’s had already been eliminated from playoff contention and Yorkton had already clinched their semi-final spot.
However there was one thing on the line: Yorkton’s undefeated record. And that perfect record appeared to be in trouble for much of the game as Saskatoon fought tooth and nail to get their first win of the tournament.
But the win would not be theirs, as the Midget Cardinals improved to 4-0 with a hard fought 5-4 win to wrap up their round-robin. Dylan Bourget took home Player of the Game honours for Yorkton.
Other round-robin results from the final day saw the Buffalos blank Prince Albert 4-0, the White Sox beat the Braves 8-1, the Pacers crush Prince Albert 11-1 and Northeast beat Weyburn 13-5.
At the end of the round-robin only four of the 11 teams that took part still had a chance at winning Provincials and advancing to Westerns: The Swift Current Indians (4-0), by virtue of their undefeated record and 58-1 runs for/against total finished first in Pool ‘A’ and faced the Moose Jaw Canucks in one semi-final while the Yorkton Cardinals (4-0) took on the top team from Pool ‘B’, the Northeast Red Sox (4-0) in the other semi-final; a team they had not beaten all season long, losing 5-3, 14-2 (tournament) and 5-4 in three different meetings.
The magical run for the Yorkton Cardinals came to a screeching halt in Sunday afternoon’s semi-final game against the Northeast Red Sox.
Yorkton fell 6-0 to the Melfort-based club in a game that was marred by poor officiating and a half hour delay due to an incorrectly filled line-up sheet by the Red Sox that contained duplicate numbers and that also that caused Yorkton to play the game under protest.
Tyson Black shouldered the loss for the Midget Cardinals. The talented first-year starter struggled with the strike zone all game, walking six Red Sox batters over five innings of work while surrendering just three hits and three earned runs and striking out four. His ability to battle through a game when he didn’t have his best stuff still warranted him the game MVP award, however.
But the story of the game had to be the umpiring. On two separate occasions bad umpire decisions hurt the Cardinals.
The first occurred when Tyson Black, while running towards first, put his hands up to protect his face from a ball that the Northeast first baseman threw directly at him. The resulting deflection of the ball allowed two Cardinal runs to cross the plate, however the umpires ruled that Black had intentionally knocked the ball down and was therefore ruled out while the runners who had initially scored had to go back to second and third respectively keeping the score 1-0 Red Sox.
The second call came later in the game when Caleb Bymak was hit in the elbow with a wild pitch. Bymak was wearing a protective elbow pad and the resulting sound from the ball hitting the elbow pad caused the home plate umpire to declare a foul ball, thinking the ball hit the bat. After much deliberation the game continued with Bymak continuing his at-bat despite being struck in the elbow by the ball.
When asked about the poor officiating that might have cost his team a chance at the Provincial final, Midget Cardinals head coach Tony Black took the high road, saying: “Looking and reflecting back on the umpire calls, they’re judgement calls. I don’t believe we lost the game because of any umpire and I think the officials did the best they could do out there. They explained the calls and I questioned the ones that were questionable and I was satisfied with their answer.”
Another thing that Black was satisfied with was his teams’ overall season. A very young team, his Cardinals improved all year long finishing fourth overall in the SPBL ‘AA’ division in their first year back in the Midget ranks in both regular season and playoffs before finishing third overall at Provincials. Overall the Cardinals went 27-20-2 despite having just one third year player on the team. “We were seven games over .500 for a young team. We’re playing against teams that have third years like Northeast.
“The teams we played, they’re senior teams and we came to play and gave them a game.”
Black is also looking forward to next season, when the Cardinals will return the entire roster with the exception of Mason Kelley, the only third year Cardinal player to graduate from the club. He’s also looking forward to next season in that, with the kids coming up, Yorkton should be able to field two Midget teams; something that hasn’t been done since the Yorkton Expos and Yorkton Prairie Bandits days.
Other results from the playoff rounds: Swift Current defeated Moose Jaw 4-0. Northeast Red Sox beat the Swift Current Indians 6-4 in 10 innings to win the Midget ‘AA’ Provincial Championship. Yorkton Rawtec Maulers prospect Logan Casavant named Finals MVP.