It took just 6 games to win their first Great Lakes Baseball League Championship but then, again, it took 7 years to finally achieve that goal. Perpetually knocking on the door only to come up just short the Mounties finally negotiated the last hurdle by leaping over the Chicago Architects with their 5-4 win at Lakeside Park.
The Architects and Mounties had identical 82-62 records but Hamilton owned Chicago in the brief regular season by winning all four games by scores of 2-0, 10-4, 6-4, and 3-2. And, on this first day of October, catcher Joe Kelley made sure the Mounties would take home the grand prize as his solo shot in the 3rd inning was the difference. So, the life time record of 536-452 (second only to Chicago) now has a championship banner to secure the reputation as one of the top teams in the history of the league.
For the Canadian League it was sweet stuff indeed to see the string of USA titles arrested at five in a row as Hamilton joins Thunder Bay as the only Canadian teams to win a championship. Geoff Boyd won the Most Valuable Player award as his relentless hitting down the stretch of the playoffs propelled Hamilton to the title.
For Chicago it was another great season that saw them win the USA championship and then compete in their fourth League Championship having won two titles to date.
The Chicago Architects are trying to win their 3rd title but are down 0-2. History tells us being down in the playoffs means very little to this team. They have rallied from 0-3 deficits before so 0-2 probably seems inconsequential, or at least it does not evoke the feeling of doom that some GM’s might feel in this position.
Chi GM Al Borie had this to say this morning, “Oh, they’re off to a decent start. In their case they won’t have a chance to lose one at home until Game Six, and they may have wrapped it up by then. You gotta like their chances.
But I like mine too. I have no idea who the better team is, but mine has always had a tendency to fall behind and come back.” The small sampling of 4-0 in the regular season points toward Hamilton as the favorite, especially up by two games.
But, the Hamilton Mounties are all too familiar with being the last minute bridesmaid and not the bride as they, more than any other ball club, have come the closest to winning a championship only to fall just short. Witness last year as they took a 2 run lead into the bottom of the 9th only to see the game tied before losing in extra innings to the Duluth Sea Gulls. Hamilton has never had a losing season and this is their 4th trip to the post-season with many wondering, if not speculating, that maybe it just might be their year. The unlikely hero of game two was light hitting George Huffman batting .143 for the post season but it was the two singles in the 2nd and 4th that accounted for two runs batted in and the difference in the 3-2 win. He was but 1 for 21 heading into yesterday’s contest.
The series heads to the Windy City where Arvin Northeast will take the hill while being opposed by Roosevelt Gilbert, coming off a stunning 8.1 IP shutout of Toronto. At the same time it was Arvin Northeast who slammed the door on Toledo with his 8.0 IP/ 0 Runs effort that punched the Architects ticket to the Championship Round.
“Read the highlights and thought HAM was off to a decent start, but you’re never in trouble til you lose at home – so they say!”, were the comments of Owen Sound GM David Jones, but in the case of Chicago they not only can’t risk a loss at home but they have to win on the road. Using the above logic the Mounties simply need to take care of business in Hamilton to earn the status GLBL Champions for the first time in their history. The roadblock? Chicago loves to come from behind and is famous for crushing the dreams of their opponents.
Toronto tied the game, 4-4, in the bottom of the 7th. With runners on second and third, Jesse Stannard singled to left. The runner on third scored, tying the game, while the runner on second tried for home … but was thrown out. After that, there were some singles and walks, but a runner didn’t reach scoring position until the 10th (when Toronto’s Michael Howard got stranded at third) and then the 18th (when Windsor’s Harry O’Connell hit a lead-off doubled but was stranded at third). Runners reached second in the 20th (single and sac bunt) and 21st innings (walk and ground out that advanced the runner). In the top of the 26th, Windsor’s Christophe Sarrazin doubled with two outs and got stranded. In the bottom of that inning, Michael Howard led off with a triple and was driven in by Jesse Stannard to win the game.
Of Windsor’s 287 pitches, 180 came after the game got tied, 4-4, in the seventh. Of Toronto’s 371 pitches, 238 came after the game was tied.
Think of it this way: if the game had started in the 8th inning, it would have gone 19 innings, Toronto would have won 1-0, and the teams would have combined for 418 pitches.
Windsor’s Larry Brown came on to pitch in the 13th inning. He pitched 7.2 shutout innings in relief, striking out 6 and walking none.
Toronto pitchers struck out 29 Vigilantes.
Jesse Stannard was the last batter, singling in the winning run. He led off the bottom of the first, doubled, and scored the games first run. On the day he went 3-for-11, with a run and two RBIs.
Jesse Stannard, the hero, sending what few fans remaining home for an abbreviated sleep.
Godzilla Garcia is not only threatening to hit .400 but he is actually raising his average as this past week saw his batting line go from .420 to .423. In last evenings contest he went 3 for 4 against the Neptune’s with a double. Toledo managed to win 6-1 as their challenger for the batting title, Carl MacNiven went 2 for 4 with his own double to ease his average back up to .389, yet at the same time quieting conversation about whether he might hit .400.
Sourface MacNiven is hitting .107 points above his average for last season and still has a shot at .400.
If this were a horse race you might hear the announcer using the classic vernacular of the sport something akin to ‘they are around the far turn’ and you would know that these two batting giants are about to head to the stretch. But, if you were not paying attention you might miss some activity, say, ‘coming up from the rear’.
Not to be out done, the face of the GLBL is making his own bid for another batting crown as the two time Lake Superior Award winner and two time Lake Erie Award winner, and seven time all star (aka every year) is preparing for the stretch run with a vengeance.
Shotgun Time! He was hitting .256 near the end of April but he’s been classic Silas since then and is now batting .375. So the question is as we head to the stretch, ‘who can go the distance’?
When you are 23 years old and playing at the GLBL level you are usually riding the bench hoping for an opportunity for a spot start here and there always with the hope that you impress the manager enough to give you another opportunity, hopefully in the form of a start. Less likely, but still possible, you might be the benefactor of a long term injury to a player that moves you up the depth chart (Google Wally Pipp).
In the case of Guillermo ‘Godzilla’ Garcia he has already eclipsed the status described above as he is now the starting RF while spending some time in CF. He’s 4.8 ZR combined. But, we are not here to talk about his glove, or his arm (7 assists).
It’s the bat that carries his .416 batting average. 89 hits in 214 at bats qualifies him as a legitimate challenger to ‘Sourface’ McNiven of Toledo for the leagues highest batting average in 2021. And, you don’t want to face this guy in a matinee contest as he hits .445 during the day hours. In 316 AB’s he hit .341 in 2020. In the current season he has posted 0 HR’s and 1 triple and appears to be the classic slap and hit batter who uses his speed to beat out infield hits. No question, Godzilla is a legit candidate to lead the league in batting for quite some time.
After 59 games he was hitting .395. Having played 106 games Carl is now at .396 and definitely capturing the attention of stat freaks all over the Great Lakes area. Is the 36 year old second sacker distracted with all the media attention?
Carl had this to say. ” Are you serious? We’ve got a pennant to win. Anything else is back seat stuff, mister.”
We know where the man is physically located….at the Bay of Quinte mid way between Kingston and Toronto. This little fishing village is home to the AAA Herons where Walt plays his baseball these days. But, it wasn’t always this way for James as but two years ago he was east of this sleepy village stealing bases, hitting extra base hits and posting a 3.8 WAR for the Kingston Comets, part of the GLBL.
A year later the Architects claimed him off waivers from Kingston but his stay was short in Chicago as his 7 AB’s hardly constituted a cup of coffee, to quote the iconic former catcher Joe Garagiola. The Waveriders inked him to a one year deal on April 1 (you can read whatever you want into that signing date) but Owen Sound did not get what they thought they were buying as Walt totaled 20 hits in 109 AB’s with this batting line: .183/.217.211. Having committed just 1 error his entire career, short as it’s been, this guy could flash the D, definitely run, and hit better than the virtual replacement player by a long shot. Just 32, one can only wonder what went wrong.
Tied for the league with 24 is Dave ‘Mustache’ Teague. He’s been an All Star every season, won 3 Lake Erie Awards, was twice the MVP in the Canadian Playoffs, is hitting .304 with a .974 OPS, and plays three different positions. Throw in 47 BB/ 50 K ratio and you have quite an offensive force. Teague has a lifetime 124 dingers and has hit less than 20 just one time. Many pick him to win the home run crown while vying for League MVP.
His main competition comes from an unlikely source. Tied with 24 homers is Jim Copeland of the Kingston Comets. The Scouting Book on Copeland is that he is a not a leader, not very smart, not loyal, and has poor work habits. He batted .180 last season and is hitting .214 with a .262 OBP. Copeland has walked 24 times and fanned 97. His WAR to date is 0.6. But, he is a masher. With 71 RBI’s to go with the 24 big flies he is on pace to hit 35 homers and bat in 104 runs. Most prognosticators don’t favor him to win any award but the reality is he can’t be ignored.
On July 16, 2021 Jean Vilain handcuffed the TC Bears striking out 11, walking but 2, and allowing 0 hits in the 2-0 No-No for the Waveriders. For Jean, it was deja vu all over again as two years ago, while pitching for the Toronto Maples, he shut down the Windsor Vigilantes racking up 6 K’s, yielding 2 walks, and allowing 0 in the hit column.
With 7 No Hitters in the 6 year history of the GLBL Vilain now owns two of them.
Roberto Nieto is on his way to the GLBL as the 7th overall prospect is rising through the minors at a meteoric pace. The 2021 first round 6th overall pick has already graduated from AA in half a season and is now raising eyebrows at AAA Pointe Pelee.
Nine HR’s in 166 AB’s, 36/44 W/K rate, a .417 OBP. and a .506 SLG., and 2/2 stolen bases all points to a 4 tool player in the making (slow afoot). His 6 assists in the OF speak to the potential for a cannon for an arm. Look for Oakdale, Minnesota native, and graduate of Western Ontario to make his mark sooner rather later in the GLBL.