At long last, the fans in Hamilton again have a champion. The Mounties have won the 2035 GLBL Championship, dispatching last year’s champs, the Chicago Architects, in six games.
The deciding game, won by Hamilton by the decisive score of 8-1, was anomalous in a hard-fought series rife with lead changes and late-inning comebacks.
The road to a championship is rarely a smooth one, and the Mounties’ path to victory was a rocky one nearly from day one. With the sting of their seven-game GLBL Finals defeat at the hands of the Architects last season still fresh, the Mounties were pre-season favorites to repeat as Canadian League champions, with largely the same team that won the division handily in 2034 returning.
But the Toronto Maples got off to a hot start, and the Mounties spent most of the regular season looking up at Toronto and over their shoulder at Owen Sound, who always loomed within striking distance. Injuries riddled the pitching staff, most notably a season-ending rotator cuff tear to #3 starter Josh O’Toole in early May.
Star outfielder/first baseman Eric Orr also had trouble staying in the lineup, playing only 64 games (while amassing 4.4 WAR). But the starting pitchers who avoided the injured list were rock solid, especially veteran superstar Fred Cannon (4.9 WAR) and rising star Gabriel Rodríguez (4.4 WAR), and although the offense went cold for stretches, lineup fixtures such as Claude Schwartz (5.5 WAR), Dominique Roy (5.0 WAR), and Mark March (4.3 WAR) turned in fine campaigns.
A late-May trade with Traverse City for outfielder Jim Riordan and closer Walt Bond, coupled with the July free agent-signing of veteran hurler Pascal Brunet, filled holes and added depth. The Mounties overtook Toronto in late August and kept Owen Sound at bay, ultimately finishing two games ahead of the Waveriders and three ahead of the Maples.
Owen Sound had frustrated the Mounties during the regular season, taking the season series 14-10 and winning some games by lopsided scores, notably a 15-2 pummeling on September 1. Some observers considered the Waveriders a slight favorite, but the Mounties won the Canadian Series with relative ease, outscoring Owen Sound 25-12 and finishing the Waveriders off in five games.
Suddenly, Hamilton’s offense was humming. Chicago, winners of 100+ games for the second consecutive season, promised to be a more difficult test. In Game One right fielder Sergio De Jesús hit two home runs and Rodriguez gave the ball to Bond in the ninth with a 4-1 lead, but when the normally unflappable closer squandered the lead, the momentum swerved sharply in favor of the defending champs. Orr’s tenth-inning two-run blast, however, put the Mounties in the driver’s seat again and Bond finished up to give the Mounties a 1-0 Series lead.
As nerve-wracking as that was, the nail-biting moments were only beginning. In Game Two, the Mounties built a 6-2 lead on the strength of an unlikely grand slam off the bat of light-hitting catcher Roberto López, but Cannon and the bullpen were not up to the task, and the Architects chipped away at the lead until tying it in the bottom of the seventh. The Mounties were not to be denied on this day, however, as four of them—De Jesús, Luis Torres, Álex Reyes, and Roy—hit solo shots in the top of the ninth, and Hamilton escaped Chicago with a 10-6 Game Two victory.
No sooner had the Mounties built what seemed like a commanding Series lead that the façade began to crumble. The offense that had looked so formidable over the last week and a half looked anemic against Chicago ace Jeff Michaud in the Architects’ 6-0 Game Three triumph. In Game Four, the bullpen, already worn a bit thin after Harris Wilson’s short start in Game Three, was pressed into early service again when António Gómez left with a herniated disc after a near-perfect (one hit) four-and-a-third innings. The game went 12 innings but the more-rested Architects bullpen was sturdier and Chicago came out on top, 7-4, tying the Series.
With the bullpen gassed the Mounties needed an ace-like performance from Rodriguez in Game Five. They got it. Catcher Truman Good’s RBI-double in the fifth gave Hamilton a 3-2 advantage, and Rodriguez held the lead until yielding to Florian Jacques in the eighth. Jacques pitched two scoreless frames for the save, and the Mounties were a win away from the title.
Back in Chicago for Game Six, Hamilton was determined not to play a seventh game. Cannon escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth unscathed; meanwhile, the Mounties’ bats had returned in full, with home runs by Roy and Orr helping build a 8-1 lead. Travis Wallace got the final six outs and the Mounties were the kings of the GLBL for the first time since 2021.
The 2021 Mounties also won the series in six games and also defeated Chicago. The same two general managers who pulled the strings for the 2035 GLBL Series combatants, Al B. and Alex W., were on hand in 2021—but the roles were reversed. Al, who ran the Architects from 2015 to 2022, was on the losing side in ’21, while Alex, who was in charge in Hamilton from 2015 to 2023, got to hoist the trophy. Alex has a league-best four GLBL titles to his credit; Al is now second with three.