Alliance defying the odds
The Niagara District Baseball Association senior men’s semifinals brought some of the most dramatic moments from the diamond all summer.
The Merritton Alliance continue to defy the odds and knocked off the top-seeded Niagara Falls Expos, after climbing out of a 1-0 series deficit and winning the final two games in comeback fashion.
“I have total respect for the Alliance. They are a veteran team that never quits and fights until the end and they got hot at the right time,” Expos coach Bob Ethier said.
“We beat them in the first game because we never let up. In the second and third games, we had good starts and leads, but could not keep the lead. We just couldn’t put them away… This year so far in the playoffs we have seen more series go three games, which is a good sign for the future of the league.”
For the Alliance, this is their second upset of the post season so far. They won their first-round series against the Thorns in three games as well, with two of those games needing extra innings.
Merritton is also coming off a second-place finish in the A division of the Ontario Baseball Association year-end tournament. The red and white have had the strongest outings these past weeks have their sights set on another NDBA championship.
On the other side of the bracket, the Fort Erie Cannons and Welland Chiefs began their series on Friday night in Welland after Thursday night game in Fort Erie was cancelled due to inclement weather.
After winning the first of two games in a home-and-home that saw both teams score 11 runs, the Cannons entered the night with a chance to make their third consecutive final.
In the third and final game, the lead switched hands four times over seven innings, with Pat Giampaolo walking off the Chiefs with a three-run homerun in the game of the week.
ON DECK THIS WEEK
Following are the upcoming games in the Niagara District Baseball Association senior men’s division. Admission to all games is free.
Monday: Merritton Alliance at Fort Erie Cannons; 8 p.m.; Oakes Park (FE).
Wednesday: Fort Erie Cannons at Merritton Alliance; 8:15 p.m.; George Taylor Field.
Thursday: Merritton Alliance at Fort Erie Cannons; 8 p.m.; Oakes Park (FE). **If necessary**
GAME OF THE WEEK – Giampaolo hails to the Chiefs
The Fort Erie Cannons punched their ticket to the NDBA finals for the third-straight season in walk-off fashion on Wednesday night against the Welland Chiefs.
In a game that saw four balls leave the yard between the two teams, Pat Giampaolo delivered the finishing blow in the form of a three-run homerun off Chiefs’ reliever Eric Conlon over the short right-field fence at Oakes Park in Fort Erie.
“I was lucky enough to square it up. Having home field advantage worked out for us having the short porch in right,” Giampaolo said, shortly after getting drenched by the contents of a cooler. “We faced Conlon multiple times this year and he’s owned me… my first at bat he started me with a first-pitch fastball, so I went up looking firstpitch fastball and I got it.”
“It was a battle the whole game, kudos to the Chiefs for taking us all the way.”
The Chiefs gave the ball to Mitch Butler in game three and the young right hander was shaken up. Butler gave up six runs, including two home runs and a double, five walks and struck out one in 1+ innings.
The Cannons quickly opened up a 6-1 lead by the end of the second inning.
His counterpart, Geordan Dennahower of the Cannons, started the game strong until giving up a three-run homerun to Zack Fernandez in the third.
The Chiefs would take a 7-6 lead after a three-run fourth inning that saw the Cannons commit two of their five errors on the night, after playing seven innings of clean baseball just two nights prior.
“I think the key thing I like to convey for us is the character of this team. Guys don’t give up they don’t quit. That’s what we’ve been trying to instill,” Chiefs manager Larry Stephens said.
Dennahower’s night would end after centerfielder Frank Barber reached on a throwing error by shortstop Steve Oleniuk. The Cannons’ starter pitched 3+ innings, allowed six runs (one unearned), six hits and struck out one batter.
Giampaolo pitched the last four innings, and gave up three runs on five hits and struck out one to earn the victory on the mound as well.
Welland relied heavily on relief pitcher Eric Conlon, who pitched the final six frames for the Chiefs, keeping them in contention long enough to take the lead. Conlon threw six innings, allowed four runs, six hits, two walks and struck out two batters for the loss.
“Eric has been an absolute beast all year and if it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t be in this situation,” Stephens said. “We battled all year, we battled in this series and we just come out one run short. But, we overcame a 6-1 deficit and there’s just no quit, I couldn’t be prouder.”
By the bottom of the seventh, the Chiefs held a 9-7 lead, until one of the longest-serving members of the Cannons finished the game with two runners on.
Giampaolo struck the ball hard to right field, just narrowly eclipsing the short fence in right field to complete the comeback and earn the 10-7 victory.
“He’s been doing that for us for about the last 10 years now. He’s probably got about 30-40 homeruns career homeruns for us. We have all the faith in the world in him, that’s why he’s in the threespot,” Cannons’ manager Justin Hall said.
“Adam Fowler, a teammate of ours, calls us the ‘cardiac Cannons’ because we find a way to win, especially late in the game. Boys never gave up tonight and we know especially at this park that if you get some guys on, somebody is going to get a good swing.”
Offensively for the Cannons: Robin Kellar, 2-for-3, HR; Cam Hall, 2-for-3; Giampaolo, 1-for-4, HR; Oleniuk, 1-for-3, HR; Frankie Biggins, 1-for-2; Matt Pine, 1-for-3; Kris Hodges, 1-for-3; all picked up hits in the rubber match. While: Steve Maurice, 2-for-3; Mark Jaroslawski, 2-for-4; Ryan Dear, 2-for-4, Fernandez, 1-for4, HR; Matt Mannella, 1-for-3; Justin Warnick, 1-for-3; Drew Chapelle, 1-for-3; Scott Cole, 1-for-4; contributed offensively for the visiting team in their final game of the 2017 campaign.
The Fort Erie Cannons will move on to play the Merritton Alliance in the Niagara District Baseball Association finals after Pat Giampaolo (No. 93) hit a three-run homerun to walk-off the Welland Chiefs on Wednesday night and secure a 10-9 win in the third and final game of the semi-final series.