Tag: champs

Ontario Blue Jays secure 2019 18U Canadian Premier Baseball League title

The Canadian Premier Baseball League has a new champion at the 18U level, with the Ontario Blue Jays coming out on top in the fourth season of the circuit to capture the trophy at the highest level.

After a slow start to the year, the Blue Jays surged through the end of the season. They won their final eight games of the CPBL regular season and tore through the playoff weekend, defeating the Ontario Astros, Great Lake Canadians and Toronto Mets to seal the championship victory.

“It’s always been a good group,” OBJ 18U manager Joe Ellison said. “They did well at 17U and moving ahead to us at 18U, they had a good fall. We started rough — I don’t think that’s a surprise to anybody — we were 2-8 to start off the year, but they bought into what we were preaching all year and by the end of it, they came out the team they were supposed to be at the beginning. Sometimes it just takes a little bit longer to get going.”

The biggest factor in getting the team going — on its way to the league title — was the leadership it had and the way its players rallied around it.

“We have a lot of guys who have been in our program for five years, and some for even six years in the cases of Lukas Barry and Blake Buckle,” Ellison said. “It was guys like that who the team rallied around when we were struggling.

“Buckle had a team meeting and pulled everybody aside and got us going back in the right direction. That was one of the biggest parts of it, having those senior leadership guys to be able to say, ‘This is the way we do things, and this is not how it should be, and this is how it needs to be,’ and that’s how it got done.”

The Blue Jays earned their way to the winners’ circle after defeating the Astros and Canadians in their first two games of the postseason tournament. They then played back-to-back-to-back games against the Mets, defeating the Toronto squad in their first attempt, dropping the second, and securing the trophy with an 8-5 win.

“I couldn’t be more happy,” the 18U OBJ manager said. “A lot of hard work goes into these teams, especially at the 18U level, and the 18U program has been something that we’ve really wanted to improve on the last couple of years.

“Finally to have it win a championship and get back to where it should be is really exciting for our program, and exciting for myself, the players, and the whole coaching staff.”

As the season continues south of the border for the Blue Jays this summer, the organization couldn’t be more excited about the competition and calibre of play the CPBL provided throughout the year at the 18U level.

“It’s huge for us,” Ellison said. “The addition of metal bats this year made it a little more exciting, definitely more of an offensive league this year. It challenged our pitchers and our position players to be much better and to take care of the baseball.

“For us, our next stop is to Flint, Michigan for the Connie Mack World Series qualifier, and to go in on a high note and in a really good spot as a team, I’m excited.”

Winning the league championship was the icing on the cake for a Blue Jays’ squad that showed a no-quit attitude all year long, and was truly an entire team effort come to fruition on Sunday.

“I go back to the leadership guys, the guys who have been around the block, who I really leaned on  to help right the ship with our 18U program,” Ellison said. “They did that, and I really couldn’t be any more proud of those guys and the team as a whole. Everybody contributed something throughout the year.

“Obviously when you get off to the start we did, the wheels could have come off really easily, but the guys pulled together and everybody played a role. Even though they might not have been in the championship game on Sunday, everyone did something this year to help us win and to get to where we were to give us that opportunity.”

Great Lake Canadians take 18U title for program’s third CPBL championship

After setting a new standard for the most experienced players in the Great Lake Canadians program, with the first-ever tournament win on American soil at the 18U level, and beyond becoming regular-season champions and finishing the year atop the Canadian Premier Baseball League leaderboard, the 18U squad’s season culminated with a championship victory at the highest level of the circuit. 

The Canadians cruised through the playoffs, with an early-round bye because of their position to finish the regular season, and won their way to a title, bringing the 18U trophy back to London after notching their final victory in Scarborough. 

“We got a bye for leading the regular season, so we ended up playing the Toronto Mets in the first game,” GLC 18U manager Adam Stern said. “We thought they were probably one of the tougher offensive clubs that we would face, and it was a good game. They had us late, and then we clawed a few runs. They had a good pitching performance, so they were one of the tougher opponents for us, and they’d had our number early in the season. 

“We won that game and then we played the Fieldhouse Pirates, and it was another good game and ended up being 1-0. It was well pitched on both sides, and that brought us through to the finals, where we would have to be beat twice [to ultimately lose the championship], and then Fieldhouse made their way through to the finals as well, so it was a good competition at the end.” 

With the success the Great Lake squad had found throughout the entire summer, expectations were set at a high bar for the team as it headed into the post-season. 

“I knew going into the season, and as a staff we knew, that we had a good group of guys out there that was built to win,” Stern said. “We had a [pitching] staff that was going to throw strikes, and we had a very well-mixed offensive group. So we had high expectations going in, and we knew that we had a lot of good baseball players on the team. But in the end, they had to go out there and perform, that’s the name of the game, and they did.” 

With the successful season in the rearview mirror, and after many goodbyes were shared among the players heading off to an array of colleges for the fall, the team’s manager had an incredible sense of pride in his players and the year they put together. 

“All along, this team has been a pleasure to coach,” Stern said. “These guys are a resilient group. They play well together, and whether it was pitching or offensive, but they picked each other up if one side wasn’t doing it. Really all year these guys competed. It is obviously a testament to them, the record they had – only losing seven games all year is not easy to do – and it speaks volumes to the quality of the kids on the field.” 

Great Lake’s 18U championship followed CPBL title victories for the organization’s 14U Red and 15U Red teams, after seeing all of the program’s seven teams make it into the semi-final round of league playoffs, and five of them moving into the finals.

“It was an exciting weekend,” Stern said. “Obviously we were up in Toronto not getting to see everything happening [in the other playoff series], but we get to work with these kids during the off-season, and we get to see them during the year, so you see a culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication from the players’ standpoint and the coaches’ standpoint. 

“We couldn’t be more proud of the group of players, and the teams that didn’t win it, they had their own successes. It’s a game that comes down to getting a big hit here or a big pitch there, but all seven teams performed at or above our expectations.” 

Toronto Mets 17U Orange squad captures program’s first CPBL championship

In the third season of the Canadian Premier Baseball League, the Toronto Mets organization captured its first championship when the 17U Orange squad took down the defending age-group champion Great Lake Canadians and secured the title on the second-to-last day of the season. 

After finishing in the middle of the league leaderboard through the regular season, the Mets Orange squad fed off of its more recent success in tournaments in the United States and took the trophy home after big wins against its Blue counterpart and the GLC team. 

“It was exciting,” Mets 17U manager Rich Leitch said. “It was the first one for our program, and then the 16U team won the next day, so it was a good weekend for us…We were confident going into the weekend and we had been on a pretty good roll. We had just come off of an 18-game winning streak down in the U.S. and we were playing really good baseball. 

“We got through our Blue team, and they’re a scrappy bunch who have played us tough all year, and they play hard. Then we had to beat GLC twice in Dorchester, which we knew was going to be a tough task, but we were confident in the there guys we had going. Our three starting pitchers in the last weekend, Nick Manias, Curtis March and Jake Rogers – I believe they were a combined 27-1 on the season – so we had a lot of confidence in our starting pitching, and we had some guys who were really starting to swing the bats well. 

“So we were confident, but we knew it was going to be a grind to get through it.” 

Despite the grind, hoisting the CPBL trophy at the end of a successful season was fun for everyone involved. 

“This was probably the most enjoyable year I ever had coaching,” Leitch said. “I can’t say enough about the kids. They essentially did everything we asked of them, from the first day of the fall last year until 10 o’clock on Saturday night [when the championship was won]. I was happy for them.

“Obviously the coach’s ego comes into play and I want to take credit for it, but 100 per cent of the credit goes to the players and the work they put in. They did a fantastic job and they’re all super kids. They’re a pleasure to be around and I couldn’t have been happier for them. The winning is one thing, but I was happiest for the kids. I was really proud of the way they responded.” 

Not long after the Mets 17U Orange squad sealed the deal, the club’s 16U Orange squad secured a title of its own at the younger age group, bringing home a second trophy to the Out of the Park Sports clubhouse to cap off another successful season. 

“The last couple of years, we’ve really tried to take a synergistic approach to our development plan,” Leitch said. “We’ve gone away from teams practicing separately and we’ll bring in all the kids for position-specific stuff. Our 16U guys are working with our 18U guys and they see how it gets done, and we’re fortunate to have some great players in the program to show them. We have guys like Daniel Carinci, Tyler Black, and an 18U guy like Denzel Clarke working with our 16U guys, and it shows them where they can go and where the hard work will lead them. 

“It’s unfortunate that our 18U team had a couple injuries because I think that would have been an interesting development. But for us it shows, especially at the younger age groups, with the 16U and 17U teams we’re doing the right thing and developing these guys in the right manner. 

“I’m really looking forward to next year because we’re going to have a strong group again. It’s unfortunate to see the season end each year but we are looking forward to getting it going again in the first week of September, and starting our fall season for next year.” 

Ontario Blue Jays Steed named regular-season champs of inaugural 17U season

With the third Canadian Premier Baseball League season in the books, the calibre of competition continues to grow and accomplishments within the circuit continue to gain the utmost significance. 

After a tight race for the top of the leaderboard at the newly-implemented 17U level in its inaugural year, the Ontario Blue Jays squad led by manager Mike Steed edged out the rest with a 19-7 season, just one game ahead of its closest opponent – and organizational counterpart, the Ontario Blue Jays 17U team led by Sean Travers – and is recognized as the regular-season champion of its division. 

“Basically what led to our success was our starting pitching, led by Lukas Barry and Brandon Deans,” Steed said. “Those two guys anchored the staff for the whole year, and we had a bunch of guys who just pulled their weight. 

“And with that, it just let our offence have the chance to relax a little bit, and hitters like Blake Buckle, Ashton Feijo, Arthur Kowara, and David Coleman, who travelled with us in the fall and are a little bit more mature, it allowed them to do their thing.” 

Among an array of impressive numbers from the squad across the board, the skipper of the Blue Jays believes the season was highlighted by some of the moments it had at the plate. 

“They’re young, they’re physical, and the most impressive thing was what they did offensively,” Steed said. “As well as we pitched it, we put a lot of pressure on some of the teams and the games we won, we got out early, and in between, we had a good combination of speed and power. The kids utilized that to the best of their ability.” 

Spending a busy summer back and forth between the CPBL and across the border at a number of tournaments, Steed was excited to see the competition in the league continue to grow and help his team get better along the way. Just beyond the OBJ Travers team, not far behind in the standings at 16-6, was the Great Lake Canadians 17U team, finishing the regular season with a 15-8-1 record. 

“Overall, the competition was good,” he said. “We had great series against Great Lake, and all our games were good. They took us in the four-game series but in the midweek games, we took them from them, which was great. And then the Toronto Mets Blue was another good series. 

“The league allowed us to do what we needed to do as a team. Obviously at this age, winning the leagues are great for teams and players, but they also needed to keep playing and keep working on some things and it allowed them to do that.” 

Currently on the road in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Steed’s squad has a busy schedule remaining before it wraps up for the summer and looks ahead to another year.

“We’re [at] the Marucci World Series, which we are affiliated with through the Founders Club,” Steed said. “We have opening ceremonies Wednesday, and then Thursday we start tournament play with some great competition. We open up with CBG out of California, and then the Dallas Tigers, and then we finish with the East Coast Sox out of Mississippi. So it’s going to be a very good test.”

Helping the Blue Jays prepare for that test was the successful season they had in the CPBL, and they can’t wait to see what more is in store for the future of the league. 

“There are quality players through every organization,” Steed said. “Whether its’ a guy on the mound that we’re facing that day, or the middle of the order for most clubs, it’s a good test for our guys leading up to come down and playing some of the better, competitive teams in the States. It prepared us in a great way.” 

OBJ Travers squad wins second 16U crown in two years

For the second straight Canadian Premier Baseball League season, the Ontario Blue Jays Travers squad will reign as champions at the 16U level.

Made up of a new set of players than the one that won the inaugural circuit’s crown last year, Sean Travers’ team this season impressed him right out of the gate. The 16U manager understood that his current Blue Jays had the ability to win it all from the beginning, but needed to embrace and overcome some growing pains on the field along the way.

“We knew we had lots of young talent,” Travers said. “But we also knew we were young and immature, and had a lot of growing to do. The trick is to get the talent to mature and start playing baseball differently than they’ve experienced before, and learn to compete a little bit differently. In our regular season, we lost something like 14 games because of rain, which slowed the growing-up process.

“When we hit the road to play in the States, there was still growing to do because of the time we missed on the field at home, and when we were on the road we had a lot of ups and downs. By the end of it, they started understanding how to compete at a higher level, and it really helped us coming back into the playoffs, because we got put into a couple situations where we had to really compete our butts off to get to the next round.”

Playoff weekend was a hard-fought battle for the Blue Jays, who took a seven-run round-robin loss that meant they needed to make up the deficit in a later matchup in order to move forward. The squad also had to face its organizational rival, the Ontario Blue Jays Ellison 16U team, twice over the weekend, eventually matching up against the players managed by Joey Ellison in the final contest.

“The second game, we played Ellison’s team and it was really the one time all year where our pitchers struggled,” Travers said of round-robin play. “Our hitters just couldn’t pick them up. We had a bad game, and Joey’s team – to their credit – earned their walks, and when they had runners on, they would get extra-base hits to drive them in. We didn’t lose that game – they beat us. And they won 13-6, so in our final round-robin game we had to beat the Fieldhouse Pirates by seven.

“In the first inning, Fieldhouse went out and put up three runs against one of our best pitchers and I thought we were in trouble. To the players’ credit, they finally picked up the pitchers. They went out and put up 10 runs in the bottom and we went up 10-3. We had our seven, and it went back and forth a little bit. Sometimes in blowouts guys give away at-bats, but they didn’t do that. They kept building. We ended up winning 16-6 and that put us in the next round.

“We were the second seed and had to play the Great Lake Canadians in the semifinals. You know whenever you’re going to play GLC it’s going to be a battle. They have really good pitchers, really good players, really good coaching. Luckily for us, we had one of our best pitchers, Nick Fraser, ready to go. He went out there and really grew up on the mound and kept us in the game. Going into extra innings, it was 2-2 and both runs for both teams were unearned. It was a grind for both teams, and we ended up winning 3-2.

“In the finals we got to play Joey’s team again, and they were the hot team, they were excited, lots of energy. Their pitcher, Nick Saldias, was unbelievable for three innings. We went up 3-0 and right away they came back and made it 3-3. It was a battle for seven innings. They kept pressing and our guys kept responding.”

The championship victory was one that Travers believes came at an opportune time for his team, after they’d had a chance to move out of their comfort zone playing south of the border, and being forced to elevate their performance when they returned home for the battle to end the season on top.

“Early in the year, we would have lost,” the 16U manager said. “We weren’t mentally tough enough to withstand those situations. That’s where the growth came in. They got mentally tough and they competed at a different level at the end of the season than they did at the beginning of the year…

“When you’re winning, it’s tough to learn because winning can hide a lot of problems. What was impressive about this group is that they started to understand that in close games, the little things mattered. They started paying attention to detail and really started to prepare for games a lot better. Instead of just showing up and playing, they were prepared to give their best effort.”

With back-to-back CPBL championships at the 16U level, and two Blue Jays teams squaring off against one another in the final, Travers is proud of what his organization accomplished this season, and looks forward to growing and keeping a winning tradition as his program heads into its future in the league.

“For most of our season it’s all about development,” Travers said. “You can develop individually, but it’s really tough to develop as a team and develop a winning attitude if you never win. So with this group, it was really important for them to see the fruits of their labour. I’m so glad they got to win a championship, and when the final out was made, I was really happy to see how excited they were about it.

“With these guys, you could see that it was everything coming together and they got to celebrate it. It was awesome to see both of our teams make it to the final. Both teams getting there is incredible. In the championship game, no matter who won, we were going to win. And for my players, it was their championship to win, and they went out and got it.”