By Marcia Love
They were close – closer than the Mohawks have ever been in recent years. But the team didn’t quite make it to the Sask Alta Baseball League championship game on Sunday.
Maple Creek fell short by one run in the semi-final on Sunday afternoon in Medicine Hat, sending the Richmound Rockets off to the final where they earned the title of the 2015 champions.
The Mohawks got off to a good start, but the Rockets got ahead in the top of the third. Despite their strong effort to catch up, Maple Creek suffered a 7-6 loss.
“A lot of factors came into play. That’s what happens in a one-game, winner-take-all kind of a thing,” explained coach Al Fournier.
Starting pitcher Houston Doig threw three innings before closer Dalton Kaake stepped on to the mound.
Maple Creek was ahead 2-0 after one inning, but the Rockets managed to bring in seven runs in the third.
With two outs in the third, Thabo Mthembu drilled a three-run inside the park homer.
“It hit a gap, it got to the wall and he outran the ball,” said Fournier. “That got us right back in the game, 7-5 with a couple innings left.”
As the Mohawks stepped up to bat in the seventh, Lane Sanderson got a single, then stole second.
“We could not knock him in until there was two outs actually,” recalled the coach.
Cleanup hitter Kirk Heaviland then stepped up to the plate, bringing Sanderson in with a hit to bring the score to 7-6 Richmound. Craig Fournier was up at bat next.
“We got the exact hit that we needed,” Al said. “Craig had a gap right between the centre and left fielder and made it to the fence, and basically then the race was on.”
Heaviland rounded third where the coach sent him home. Unfortunately, the Rockets were faster.
“The throw was perfect and they got him by about two feet,” Al recalled.
While it’s been close the last four years, he said this was the toughest one for the team.
The coach said there were no real errors the whole game and the Mohawks didn’t get hurt defensively.
“We battled, we just got behind a little bit and probably didn’t hit the ball as much as we would’ve liked to,” Al stated, adding Richmound’s pitcher, Jesse Duchscherer, was very good.
“It’s been a great year, it’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t play in the final. We thought we had the team this year – we did have the team, but their teams are that close.”
Richmound advanced to the championship game where they faced the Cabri River Rats, who defeated the Medicine Hat Blue Jays in their semi-final game 2-0 earlier that day. The Rockets downed the River Rats 8-7 to win the championship.