THE North Shore Twins rode an incredible hot streak all the way to the championship final of the B.C. Premier Baseball League last weekend, scoring upset after upset en route to a second-place showing in the province.
The Twins ended the regular season in eighth place, putting themselves into a three-game series against the No. 1-ranked Langley Blaze, a team that scored the most runs and allowed the fewest in a dominant season-long performance. But the Twins, who relied heavily on a strong pitching staff all year, knew they had a chance if their starters threw well against the Blaze.
So how'd they do? How about back-to-back shutouts in a doubleheader in Langley on July 28? That's how they did.
"To go into their yard and knock off the top seed, shut down the leading hitting team in the PBL without giving them a run is pretty special, to say the least," said Twins head coach Larson Bauck. "We had two great outings, we definitely threw the ball really well and played some great defence. You can't argue with the way the kids played - they played great."
In game 1 Twins ace Kyle Olver, the league leader in strikeouts, took the mound and put in a commanding performance. Olver scattered three hits and one walk while striking out three in a complete game, seven-inning shutout.
"Kyle went in there and did what he usually does, collect a few strikeouts and is basically a horse on the mound," said Bauck. "He goes in there and when he gets the ball to start the game he's determined to finish it. He did a great job for us and kept them at bay."
Keenan Williams sparked the offence with a three-for-three day, scoring two runs as the Twins won it 3-0. Williams also ended the game with a spectacular catch against the left field fence that knocked him out of the second game of the double header.
"He wants the baseball hit to him, and they hit it to him but they hit it a long ways away. He's a fast, fast kid and he went and got it and made a fantastic play," said Bauck. "He banged his head up, banged his knee and he wasn't able to go the second game. That play ended the game so we definitely took some momentum off that into the second game."
In game 2 Jordan Kellof took the mound and pitched to contact, giving up some hits but relying on his defence to make plays. And make plays they did, keeping the powerful Blaze frustrated all day with their slick fielding while generating enough offence for a 20 victory to complete a stunning sweep of the league leaders.
"(Kellof) beat them with 67 pitches," said Bauck. "They got their hits off him but when he was in a jam he found a way to get a ground ball inning killer double play and get himself out of the inning."
The win earned the Twins a trip to last weekend's final four tournament held in Nanaimo and the opposition didn't get any easier. In their first game the Twins took on the host Nanaimo Pirates, seeded
No. 1 in the tournament after a second-place finish in regular season play. It didn't take long for the Twins to show that the Langley wins were no fluke - the bats came alive, led by a Riley MacDonald grand slam in the first inning, giving Olver more than enough support in an 8-4 win.
The next day will forever be known as Lachlan Fontaine day for the Twins as the bighitting third baseman blasted three home runs - a grand slam and two three-run bombs - and racked up 11 RBIs in two games as the North Shore beat the Okanagan Athletics 7-6 and the Coquitlam Reds 11-5.
"That kid had a career day, he'll probably never have a day like that in his life," said Bauck. "Three bombs and 11 RBIs, that was just off the charts."
The wins put the Twins into Sunday's championship final against the Athletics and, finally, the streak came to an end. With the top pitchers from both teams burned up by earlier games, the final came down to a hitting contest and the Athletics belted a few more shots, winning 9-7.
"We just kept battling and battling, we just couldn't get the lead," said Bauck. "Every time we would score they would come back and score again. We had them on the ropes in the sixth but we couldn't get that big swing to drive in two with the bases loaded."
The loss ended the miracle run - the Twins won nine straight games before finally losing the championship - but the team has nothing to feel bad about, said Bauck.
"Any time you lose in a final game it's always a defeat but to look back on it all and to see they way the kids played and came together, I was definitely proud of the kids, I couldn't ask for anything more from a coach's perspective," he said. "For the kids to go on a run like that was amazing. They just put everything together and started playing their best baseball at the most opportune time and they all came together as a group. It was phenomenal to see."
For coach Bauck the team's great run wasn't the only little miracle going on - two days before the Langley series, he and his wife welcomed their first child, a boy named Hudson.
"I got out of the hospital and basically headed straight to the park," said Bauck with a chuckle. "It was an interesting couple of weeks. You have 18 kids or 20 kids (on your team) for years and years and years and all of a sudden you have one of your own. It definitely gives you a different perspective."
. . .
Three Twins were honoured with three all-star selections when the BCPBL handed out their awards following the championship game. Olver and infielder Louis Boyd were both named to the first allconference team while Fontaine was picked for the second allconference team. Olver was also recognized as the league leader in strikeouts with 89, innings pitched with 84.3 and complete games (tied for lead) with nine.