It was a winner-take-all game down in Vancouver, game three of the three-game Northwest League Championship Series, and take all was what the Canadians did. They blanked the Boise Hawks 5-0 to win their third-straight championship ring. Incidentally, they started winning championships the year they affiliated with the Blue Jays. It was a tight, well-pitched game throughout and was one of the most exciting games I've listened or watched all season, in any level of baseball. It was definitely worth staying up for.
Vancouver took an early lead with some help from the Boise Hawks defense. Chaz Frank, the second batter of the third, hit a sharp grounder to Hawks shortstop Danny Lockhart who had trouble handling it. The official scorer called it a single out of compassion, as young Lockhart had already committed two-out throwing errors in the first and second innings. A fielder's choice exchanged Frank and Andy Fermin (son of Felix) on the base paths. With two outs, Mitch Nay singled to right.
Then 2013 14th-round pick L.B. Dantzler, who hit a walk-off single for the South Carolina Gamecocks last year, drove in Fermin and Nay to make it a 2-0 game. Fermin's run, it turned out, was the only one the Canadians needed. Dantzler's hit was helped out by Hawks centre fielder Kevin Encarnacion, who judged the ball terribly, running in only to watch the fly ball go over his head. A fun story about L.B. Dantzler: his birth name was Bradley Richard Dantzler, but according to GatorJay everyone kept on calling him L'il Brad (his father was also named Bradley) so it stuck.
Boise's defense cost them dearly, recording five official errors, plus the aforementioned miscues from Lockhart and Encarnacion. Boise starter Mike Wagner and reliever Matt Iannazzo pitched quite well.
Canadians starter Tom Robson, who hails from Lander, BC, was given the task to pitch the big game in front of a hometown crowd and did not disappoint. The 20-year old right-hander was the Blue Jays' fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft. After giving up some hard-hit balls to start the game, Robson settled down and retired 12 Hawks in a row after giving up a leadoff single in the third and a leadoff double in the seventh inning. Robson hit 94-95 mph with his fastball in the game, still reaching 92 in the seventh, rare numbers in the Northwest League.
Robson was lucky, Encarnacion's fly out in the sixth went to the warning track and Rony Rodriguez's double in the seventh came within inches from going over the wall. He also got some help from his shortstop Dawel Lugo, who showed off the power of this right arm on a Shawon Dunston grounder.
Robson left the game with Rodriguez at third having gotten one out in the seventh to a standing ovation at Nat Bailey Stadum. Watching the game live, expos&nordiques4ever reported that Robson kept his game face on as he walked off, not even cracking a smile. Robson's final line: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB. MjwW counted 84 pitches from Robson, right around the 80-85 pitch limit he was prescribed before the game.
Left-handed reliever Alonzo Gonzalez stranded Robson's runner on third with two strikeouts to end the inning. In the next inning, Gonzalez walked Jordan Hankins but Lance Rymel hit into a 4-6-3 double play right before a Dunston base hit. That double play was key to prevent a Hawks comeback.
Michael Reeves drove in the Canadians' third run in the bottom of the eighth inning when he doubled in Dawel Lugo, who had a double himself. Ian Parmley provided some offense from the bottom of the order, driving in two on a single to make it 5-0.
With the game well in hand, the Canadians just had to get three more outs, and manager Clayton McCullough called on closer Chuck Ghysels. He came out and struck out Lockhart and Rodriguez to enormous cheers. With Canadians--and Blue Jays--fans breathing hard everywhere, Ghysels threw the final pitch of the game, and the season, to Jacob Rogers, who hits it to shortstop Lugo, who then threw it to first baseman Dantzler for the final out. The final out of the game can be seen here.
The 5000-strong crowd at Nat Bailey sounded like they had a great time. They were chanting players' names, clapping, and got loud when they needed to. Vancouver is far and it costs quite a bit to get to, but one day soon I have to make my way out there to watch a game. I expect another great write-up from expos&nordiques4ever to complement this one!