3-Peat: Baseball team sends Brock packing for third straight year

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Excited group hug

It wasn’t easy, but by the end of this past weekend the Western Mustangs men’s baseball team were singing, “We Are the Champions” for the third straight year.

Winning two games in the best-of-three series, the ’Stangs clinched their third consecutive Ontario University Athletics title over the Brock Badgers at Labatt Memorial Park.

Due to Friday’s rain, the series opened up at Brock Saturday afternoon, where the Mustangs took the first game 9-6.

From there, the Badgers traveled to London and handed Western a 4-2 loss in game two on Sunday afternoon. With the series split, the Mustangs battled in their tightest game of the year to win the championship by a score of 2-1.

Game one saw this season’s OUA pitcher of the year Sean Grimes take the mound against Brock’s Jordan Prosper. Grimes pitched seven innings, giving up just one earned run on five hits.

“They weren’t hitting me very hard,” Grimes said. “I knew I could beat them; I just pitched my game.”

The Badgers capitalized on Western’s early defensive jitters to give Brock a 1-0 lead after the second inning.

The Mustangs answered back in the following innings, tallying one run in the third, fourth and fifth before breaking out for a three-run seventh inning. All the while, Grimes worked to silence the Badgers.

With a 6-1 lead in the eighth, Western headed to the bullpen and opted to pitch closer Andrew Bergman. The Badgers quickly loaded the bases with zero runners out.

Mustangs’ pitcher Jeff Newnes entered the game with the bases loaded and zero out. Brock’s Casey Burnie scored on a wild pitch to bring the Badgers within two runs of the ’Stangs once comfortable lead.

The Badgers tied the game on an RBI ground ball to the shortstop and wild throw-out attempt at third base. Newnes came up with back-to-back strikeouts to end Brock’s rally.

“We don’t panic,” Mustangs manager Mike Lumley said. “The game was tied ... but we knew we had the late innings to come back.”

The Mustangs took to the eighth with the top of the order at the plate. Matt Bekar came up with an RBI single to put the ’Stangs back in the lead. Clarke Markle tallied an RBI and Bruce Craine capped off the three-run eighth inning with an RBI triple.

“We showed a lot of heart,” Craine said. “We might [get] down, but we’re never really out. We just had to focus and stay in the game. We figured it out.”

Newnes came back in the ninth to close the game at 9-6.

Game two had Western’s Jon Rubin and Brock’s Nathan Penrose facing off at Labatt Park. Rubin pitched five innings, giving up just one run on five hits.

However, in the pitching duel, Penrose tipped the scale in Brock’s favor. Penrose threw into the ninth, giving up just two runs on four hits " earning him player of the game honours in the process.

“I wanted to keep the ball low to get ground balls,” Penrose said. “It was about throwing strikes and working ahead in the count.”

The Badgers scored in the sixth after working a pair of walks to set up an RBI single. Brock came back in the seventh and scored three runs on Western’s defensive blunders to make it 4-0.

“Our pitchers did their job, they got the ground balls. They did their thing,” Lumley said. “Our guys got frustrated with their at bats and then it carried out onto the field. It’s kind of a human thing to do.”

The ’Stangs made it interesting in the ninth, adding two runs on the board, but it was too late. Brock took game two by a final score of 4-2 to keep their season alive.

“We just wanted to play well and give them everything we had,” Brock head coach Jeff Lounsbury said. “We wanted to play hard and give ourselves a chance.”

With the series split, the Badgers and the Mustangs faced off in a deciding game three that was determined by some late-game heroics.

Western’s Jordan Townshend took the mound opposite Brock’s Anthony Arnone in the final game of the series.

Western marked a run in the second on an RBI single by Mark DiGiulio to score Ben Rich.

Both teams remained quiet until Brock tallied one run on some timely sacrifice hitting to tie the game in the sixth. Western pulled ahead quickly in their half of the inning with an RBI infield hit by the player of the game, outfielder Andrew Salmon.

The Badgers opened the ninth with three walks to load the bases off Western’s Bergman. With the tying run on third, Newnes came into the game to close.

Brock’s designated hitter Dan Baribeau hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop DiGiulio who quickly tossed the ball to second baseman Craine who turned two to send the Badgers home as runners-up for the third year in a row.

Series MVP was awarded to Western’s Jeff Newnes, who got the win in game one and the save in game three.

“I know there’s so much pressure riding on the situation,” Newnes said. “I just go out and block out all the other stuff. We knew we had to come out and get a big win.”

“We knew that we were better,” Salmon said. “The entire time we knew that we were better. We just had to play our game.”

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