Western battles OUA All-Stars to deadlock

Controversial call at home plate leads to tie

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Baserunner stepping on Western catcher's face

Jon Purdy

LUCKILY THE SPIKES WERE MADE OUT OF PLASTIC. Western catcher Andrew Mensink could only watch as the baserunner was ruled safe at the plate. The disputed call set the stage for Western to tie the OUA All-Stars 5-5.

In the inaugural Ontario University Athletics baseball all-star showcase on May 9 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, the Western Mustangs battled a squad of OUA All-Stars to a 5-5 tie. The back-to-back OUA champions took on an array of named all-stars; it was the crème de la crème of OUA baseball.

The 2007 OUA Baseball Organizing Committee put on the event in cooperation with the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club. The event is dedicated to showcasing the talent of OUA baseball.

Mustangs manager Mike Lumley commented on the opportunity to participate as OUA champions in a Major League ballpark. Lumley was a former draft pick of the Detroit Tigers and played six years of professional baseball in the United States.

“For the boys it’s exciting because they really have an awe of the park,” Lumley said. “And to get the opportunity to play at the Rogers Centre is a sweet deal.”

The game featured outstanding talent, as Mustangs ace Ryan Butkowsky faced off against Toronto’s Jake Gallo, who was named most valuable pitcher for the 2006 OUA season. Butkowsky pitched a no-hitter through two perfect innings with four strikeouts to quiet the All-Stars’ offence.

Gallo held Western scoreless through his outing of two innings, but trouble for the All-Stars began in the third as the Mustangs owned the bases and tallied two runs to be the first on the board.

The ’Stangs enjoyed continued prosperity through the middle innings " they added another two runs to solidify a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the eighth.

The All-Stars battled back in the eighth, loading the bases off of Mustangs pitcher Chi Chen. A groundout to first brought the All-Stars within two runs. With one out in the late innings, Laurier’s Pat Kropf lined a ball to left field where Mustangs outfielder Clarke Markle made a stunningly accurate throw to home plate in an attempt to out the runner. But in a controversial call by the home plate umpire, the runner was ruled safe and the stage was set for the All-Stars to secure the tying run.

In the ninth inning, the ’Stangs loaded the bases and walked in a run to take back the lead at 5-4 with the All-Stars last at-bats still to come.

The All-Stars terrorized Western pitching in the bottom of the frame. The All-Stars loaded the bases and in a nail-biting situation, C.J. Cabrero came up with a brilliant strikeout to end the game.

The game finished in a tie, a result reflective of the high level of skill and competition between two top-notch teams.

Toronto’s Dan Lang, OUA coach of the year, took on the lead role for the OUA All-Stars.

“It was difficult,” Lang said. “I only knew three of the players.”

Despite a slow start, the All-Stars eventually found their groove to challenge the OUA champs. A solid all-around performance by Matt Bylow of the Guelph Gryphons earned him most valuable player for the All-Star team.

“[Playing at the Rogers Centre] was awesome,” Bylow said. “We had a good game.”

Butkowsky snagged most valuable player for the Mustangs. He attributed Western’s strong showing to a true team effort.

“We all did our jobs,” Butkowsky said. “We had some clutch hits and we should have got the win, but things happened. Everyone did their job and everyone really stood out.”

Mustangs catcher Ben Rich reflected on the experience.

“It was excellent,” Rich exclaimed. “We’ve been looking forward to [the game] since we heard about it. It was just great to get down here on the field and play a very solid ball game with this great opportunity.”

Despite losing some seniors from their lineup, the Mustangs should remain a threat in the OUA for next year’s title, with all of their starters taking to the field next year as veteran players.

One area of concern for the team, however, is on the mound. Butkowsky stepped up this past season to fill the void left by Brook Coatsworth, an ace hurler crucial to the team’s 2005 success.

“When you lose two of the best pitchers in the league in Butkowsky and [Matt] Chisamore, you need new guys to step up or to find new arms [for 2007],” Rich said.

With the Brock Badgers and the Toronto Varsity Blues looking strong next season, the Mustangs will be in tough to win a third straight title. Regardless, Rich is optimistic about the team’s chances next season.

“We just need to keep playing team baseball the way we have the last two years.”

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