Heartbreaking loss in Hamilton

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

The Wilfrid Laurier University men’s baseball team entered the Ontario University Athletics playoff weekend with a regular season record of 14-4 and high hopes of repeating as champions.

Unfortunately, they saw their season come to an end in a semi-final loss to the Waterloo Warriors last Saturday night.

The squad opened up the double-elimination tournament Friday night against Waterloo, and lost by a score of 6-3.

This made the road tougher for the Hawks, as they would be forced to win three straight games on Saturday if they wanted to advance to the finals.

Head coach Scott Ballantyne stressed the importance of the Friday game in the ultimate result, and chalked the loss up to execution.

“We had a pretty good mindset going in, but we made a few too many mistakes. [Waterloo] capitalized every time we made a mistake and got a couple of hits with men on base,” he said.“We had lots of opportunities ourselves but couldn’t get the big hit. It was certainly frustrating and we knew that it was going to be a long haul ahead of us coming on Saturday.”

With that loss the club would be forced to beat Western, Guelph and Waterloo on Saturday in order to meet Brock in the finals. According to Ballantyne, there was no lack of motivation to play Western — one of the team’s biggest rivals throughout the year.

“Everybody came ready to go on Saturday. It does not take much to get up against a team like Western who we had some pretty good rivalries with over the last number of years,” he said.

A grand slam and a great pitching performance by Brett Van Pelt surged the Hawks to a 10-0 victory over the Mustangs.

They then travelled to Burlington to take on Guelph, ultimately winning that decision with a final score of 8-4. The team would travel to Hamilton after playing 18 innings for a 7:30 p.m. start against the Warriors. The combination of great pitching by Waterloo and a tired Laurier offence proved to be the recipe for the end of the Hawks season.

“It was an up and down day but our guys played really well and hung together. I’m proud of them,” said Ballantyne.

The two captains of the team — pitcher Jordan Petruska and outfielder Jonathon Brouse — described the weekend as a mix of emotions.

“When you get into a tournament or playoffs like that, it’s just a roller coaster. You just have to go with the flow. You just have to keep focused and keep your eye on the prize and give it your all,” said Petruska.

“It is tough to play three nine-inning games in a day,” said Brouse. “Maybe we did physically run out of gas a bit, but what I was impressed with was that even when we were tired, our guys didn’t run out of emotion. We didn’t run out of passion to win … everybody was still motivated and up until the last pitch.”

Ballantyne felt as if the weekend was a great learning experience for his club.

“I think we learned a lot about ourselves in terms of gutting it out in three straight games in one day. I feel pretty confident that we will be in a good spot next year and have another strong team,” he said.

Looking forward to next season, the Hawks will lose their ace, Brett Van Pelt, who is graduating but will have a large returning core of players including their two captains and the majority of their pitching staff.

Brouse believes that being eliminated by their cross-town rivals, and failing to repeat will be motivation for next year.

“When you win, it’s not that you don’t work as hard, but when you lose I think it teaches you a lot more and fuels your fire a little bit as a team and individually towards working a little bit harder… it is going to serve a purpose for next year and down the road,” he said.

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