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Great Lake Canadians and Ontario Blue Jays impress at T12

TORONTO – The fourth-annual Tournament 12 featured some impressive familiar faces, and three combined no-hitters on the second day of games on Saturday, two of them thrown by Ontario squads and using all Canadian Premier Baseball League hurlers.

In the second contest of the day, Ontario Green used three CPBL arms to no-hit Alberta Red, finishing the game in a scoreless tie. The first hit of the game was a two-out infield single in the bottom of the fourth, from Great Lake Canadians infielder Tye Imeson, who had two of the team’s three total hits.

“It was a combined no-no and the pitch counts were really low, so they did a great job,” said Mike Steed, a coach with both Green and the Ontario Blue Jays program. “In 1-1 counts, all you’ve got to do is throw that first-pitch strike and you’re in control. The other team absolutely pitched well, there wasn’t a whole lot of offence on both sides. They kept the hitters off balance and changed eye levels. Good pitching.”

OBJ southpaw Harley Gollert got the start and in three innings of work he walked one and struck out six. GLC right-hander Jake English followed out of the bullpen with two perfect frames and three strikeouts, before OBJ righty Nathan Holmes finished it off with two walks, fanning two in his two innings.

“They were excited in the dugout, the guys who threw,” Steed said. “Harley and then Jake, as soon as they got the last out in the top of the seventh, Harley looked at me and said, ‘Hey, combined no-no,’ so they know what’s going on and it’s exciting for them.”

Ontario Black followed suit in the final matchup of the day with a combined no-no of their own, using three more CPBL pitchers to get the job done and take down Alberta Red 4-0 to head into Sunday.

Griffin Hassall, a 16-year-old right-hander from the GLC program, took the mound to start the game and battled through an early blister for three innings, walking two and fanning five. Fellow Great Lake hurler Mitchell Stemerdink walked three and added two strikeouts in two frames. OBJ southpaw Alex Jones completed the no-hitter, striking out six in his two innings.

“It’s pretty great for the kids,” said Chris Robinson, a coach for both Black and the GLC program. “That was an impressive, well-pitched game. All those guys threw really well. I know Hassel was battling over a little blister there, and he went out for the second inning and he didn’t care, he pitched right through it. It was good.”

The hurlers got some help from 16-year-old Blue Jays catcher Noah Naylor, who threw out three attempted base stealers, set the tone behind the plate, and helped his squad to face just three batters over the minimum in the matchup.

“I told them to trust their stuff,” Naylor said of the pitchers. “The fastball was live today, and I just told them to be confident in it, and obviously that’s going to help them have a good game…I just try to be my best behind the plate, give them that insurance that they can trust me back there. I know when they’re throwing, they’re comfortable throwing to me, they can trust me with runners on the basepaths, and also with just doing my job.”

Added Robinson, a former big-league catcher: “He’s separated himself. It’s pretty exciting to watch. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a transfer that quick at this level, he gets rid of the ball so quickly. He’s got a great arm too but that was impressive.”

The Canadian Junior National Team catcher continues to improve with time, and has been nothing short of electric behind the plate at his second Tournament 12.

“He just keeps getting better every time I see him, especially behind the plate,” Robinson said. “It’s impressive. In my mind, there’s no doubt that he can catch at the next level, even now, and he’s still got a couple years to go. He’s a really exciting player.

“I know he’s going to draw comparisons to his brother [Josh, last year’s 12th-overall pick in the draft] forever, but that’s not fair because they’re two different players. But he’s got to be one of the more exciting catching prospects we’ve ever had in this country.”

Between the two CPBL-dominant no-hitters, Black lost an early contest against BC Orange 4-3, walked off on a wild pitch after battling through the fourth affair on Saturday.

Great Lake shortstop Adam Hall notched three of his team’s five total hits – one to keep the squad alive in the top of the seventh – and drove in two of Black’s three runs, adding two stolen bases and stellar defence. In three days of Tourament 12, the 17-year-old has made it clear why he is at the top of next year’s draft class.

“He brings a level of intensity every day to the field,” said Adam Stern, his coach with both Ontario Green and the GLC program. “He hates to lose, that’s the biggest thing you have to understand about Adam…That was a good game right there because you get to see when the game’s on the line what happens, who rises to the occasion, and he’s come up with big hits for us, he came up with big hits out here, and when the game’s on the line, you want him up there.”

Futures Navy ran short on pitching in the fifth game of the day, matching up against a tough Ontario Green squad and leaving the field after six innings because of the tournament’s mercy rule, taking the 12-1 loss in a game prominently featuring players from the GLC program.

Green used three Canadians arms to get through the game, with right-hander Corben Peters taking the hill to start and allowing one run on three hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Fellow righty Garner Spoljaric followed with two perfect frames, and Dallas Hunter retired the side in order to secure the win for Ontario.

“It was a well-pitched game,” said Ontario Green coach Rick Johnston. “We swung the bats, the kids played really well. It was nice for them to go out and do what they did. Obviously there were some walks in there, but that’s going to happen, and we put the ball in play.”

Ontario first baseman Jameson Hart, an outfielder in the Great Lake program, paced the offence, going 2-for-2 with two walks and driving in three runs. 16-year-old GLC catcher Ian Jordan drove in the only run for the Navy squad, singling and walking in the game.

Adam Hall brings maturity and intensity into his draft year

TORONTO – Adam Hall is not the player he once was.

The Great Lake Canadians infielder is back at Tournament 12 for his fourth time in the event’s fourth year of existence. But throughout the months that have passed since Hall was originally selected to participate as a 14-year-old, he has a newfound maturity that has helped him to continue his growth in the game.

It was bound to happen as the Bermuda-born native of London, Ont., got a little older and a little wiser, and spent more time on the field than ever before, but the results are still nice to see for the player expected to be at the top of the country’s draft class next June.

“There’s some on-field maturity he’s been going through,” said Adam Stern, Hall’s coach with both Ontario Black and the GLC program. “When you come here [to T12] early, there are no expectations; a little bit less pressure on yourself. The good ones find that when it’s your time and your year, and you can play with that pressure still, that makes you special.

“Some guys can’t deal with that and they try too hard and they don’t let the game come to them. Out here, he’s just playing baseball. He’s not concerned about anything else. He just wants to play baseball, and that’s a really special thing, because sometimes you get caught up in everything else, especially for the kids in their draft year.”

In addition to adding size and strength over the last four years, Hall feels as though he’s learned a lot about the game and has gained a better understanding of what to expect and how to make adjustments throughout.

“Obviously the physical maturity levels are up higher,” the shortstop said. “I’ve become a smarter player, knowing myself better and knowing how to control my emotions a little bit better as well, knowing what a pitcher is going to do to me a little bit more.

“I remember my first year I was coming here to T12 and I was facing 82 and I had to try to catch up to that, and now I’ve got to sit back, so that’s helpful. Sometimes it’s not good, but it’s part of being a well-rounded, more adjusted player too.”

Criticized for showing visible frustration out on the field, and becoming emotional when things aren’t going well, Hall believes that he is much better than he used to be in that department. The 17-year-old also knows that he may be occasionally misunderstood, and that being invested isn’t necessarily negative.

“I’ve grown a lot with controlling my emotions,” Hall said. “My intensity and my emotions are a good thing not a bad thing. Some people are going to say you can’t get mad out there, but that’s caring and I care about the game, so I’ve found a pretty good balance right now. There are still times that I need to bring it back a little bit, but it’s better to have to bring it back then to have to try to get it there.”

Taking each and every game very seriously, Hall knows that his intensity can be misinterpreted. He is often told that he doesn’t look like he is enjoying himself, but there’s nothing he loves more than playing the game.

“There are lots of people who don’t think that I’m having fun when I play because I’m so serious about it,” he said. “But there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a great quality that I have, with my competitiveness. I may not be smiling out there, but I am having fun. It’s the competitiveness that I like and the way that I play the game is serious and always intense, so that’s just me. That’s how I play.”

There are a few traits – including the lack of smiling – that haven’t changed much for Hall over the years, consistently bringing his intensity and competitive nature to whatever team he is playing for and improving the level of play.

“He hates to lose, that’s the biggest thing you have to understand about Adam,” Stern said. “The best way I can put it is that he puts his hard hat on, goes to work, has an approach, but plays with a level of intensity, and I believe he brings the others around him with him.

“Obviously that’s what he wants to do. He wants to win the game and he hates to lose. That was a good game right there because you get to see when the game’s on the line what happens, who rises to the occasion, and he’s come up with big hits for us, he came up with big hits out here, and when the game’s on the line, you want him up there.”

Added Hall: “I always bring intensity with me. That’s my main thing I always bring, that intensity. I never want to lose at all. Even out here in these games, I know it’s a tournament but it’s really a showcase. I find myself in these games getting into the game quite a bit.”