The Thunder Bay All-Stars weren’t perfect.
Not by any means.
But Friday night they did enough to get the job done, minimized their mistakes and took advantage of the opportunities presented to them as the host squad opened the Big League Canadian Championship with a hard-fought, error-fueled 11-8 win over the Fish Creek Cardinals, Alberta’s representative at the six-team baseball tournament.
Starting pitcher Nick Nigro, who held his squad in the Baseball Central contest after the Cardinals opened a 4-1 lead through three innings, said getting that first win under their belt is a great confidence boost.
“We lived for this all week,” said Nigro, tagged for six runs on seven hits when he departed after back-to-back singles to open the sixth.
“Nerves were a big key for us, but we dug deep as a team and just got the W.”
Coach Jason Hart said it was a shaky start, but given the fact the rag-tag team, together for about a week, walked away with the win in their opening contest, he’ll take it, confident they’ll find their form as the week-long tournament progresses.
“Getting that first win under our belt is big. Our starting pitching did a great job. Three runs early, but we kept it in there. (Nick) did a great job throwing strikes and getting that first win is big,” Hart said.
It was the fifth inning that turned the game around.
Down three, the All-Stars sent 11 batters to the plate, scored six times and left with a three-run lead. They were helped by two Alberta errors that kept the Thunder Bay batters circling the bases, two of the seven miscues the Cardinals were charged with on the night.
Zac Korchak, subbing for Jeremy Aube, injured in the third inning, singled home Mike Moskalyk with the tying run. Cooper Lamke, with runners on second and third, singled to right, scoring Korchak with the go-ahead run. Owen Steele came home on an outfield bobble. Cam Nahkala finished the rally with a two-out double that plated Lamke.
Thunder Bay cycled through three Cardinals pitchers in the inning. Starter Kristjan Kostivk was chased after three batters and just one out, replaced by an ineffective Ryan Beloglowka. The reliever lasted five batters, ultimately charged with the loss before giving way to Chris Dobbyn.|
Nigro settled down, buoyed in part by an acrobatic left-field snag by Tyler Kitching, Belogowka trying to start things with a deep drive in the bottom of the fifth.
Nigro retired the side in order and the All-Stars got their bats going again in the sixth, adding three more runs with the aid of four Alberta errors, the key one a Dobbyn overthrow that allowed Bryce Jorgenson and Moskalyk to cross the plate.
But the Cardinals weren’t done yet.
Back-to-back singles sent Nigro packing, replaced by Mac Joblin, who retired the first batter he faced. A two-run single by Kevin Tjostheim, a double by Kyle Desjardins and a single by Kail Belogowkla and the Cardinals had closed the gap to 10-8.
That’s when Tommy Munn took over on the mound, striking out Ryan Belowgowka and forcing a flyout by Kostivk to end the threat.
Moskalyk added an insurance run in the seventh, Munn striking out the side to end the game and collect the save.
Thunder Bay takes on Team Atlantic, the Cape Breton Dodgers, on Saturday. Game time is 6 p.m.
Fraser Valley Chiefs 3, Cape Breton Dodgers 1: Griffin Hebert, Shane Younker and Brandon Bohn drove in runs to lead the Fraser Valley Chiefs to the tournament-opening win. Tyler MacKinnon, who was 2-for-3, had the lone RBI for the Maritime representatives.
Montreal Rockets 2, Ottawa West Crusaders 1: Antoine Boyer plated the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh to hand Team Quebec the walk-off victory. Boyer had both RBI for Montreal and earned the win in relief. Brad Rintoul was tagged with the loss for Ottawa. Zack Huntley scored the Crusaders run.
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