Lank’s gem gives Knights get their re­venge

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Ted CLARKE Cit­i­zen staff [email protected]­i­t­i­zen.ca

Noah Lank is an im­pos­ing pitcher. Just turned 15, he stands six-foot-two and packs 210 pounds onto a lean mus­cu­lar frame, and as he proved to the Van­cou­ver Ex­pos in their open­ing game at the B.C. Mi­nor Base­ball ban­tam dou­ble-A cham­pi­onship Thurs­day at Nechako Field, the Prince Ge­orge Jep­son Pe­tro­leum Knights ace is quite ca­pa­ble of putting one over the fence.

Like he did in the fifth in­ning in what ended up a 7-3 vic­tory for the Knights.

Lank’s solo shot that capped the Knights’ scor­ing was his re­ward after he stumped the Ex­pos de­fen­sively in those first five innings, al­low­ing just three hits and just one run in a 10-strike­out out­ing.

“In all my years of (rep team) ball I’ve never ac­tu­ally played at home, and just to have all the fans here and play well for the peo­ple put there is lots of fun, it def­i­nitely drives you more,” said Lank.

“I was a lit­tle bit ner­vous at the start but it felt way bet­ter after that first pitch. Both my curve­ball and my fast­ball were work­ing well, I don’t throw any­thing else.

“Peo­ple don’t ex­pect much, be­ing an up-north team, but we re­ally got it done to­day.”

Lank, the MVP of last year’s B.C. Mi­nor pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship, is not known for his long-ball power but got all of the pitch Julius Heck served him with two out in the fifth.

“I haven’t been (hit­ting home runs) the last cou­ple years but I knew I had it in me,” Lank said. “Now I’ve put it to­gether and fixed my swing and it feels a lot bet­ter.”

The Knights gave Lank a 4-0 lead to work with head­ing into the top of the se­cond in­ning.

Heck got into some trou­ble right away when lead­off hit­ter Chase Martin stroked a sin­gle. Then with two run­ners on, Bren­den Gaboury brought Martin home with a one­out dou­ble, fol­lowed by a hit from Parker McBurnie that scored Lo­gan Dre­her.

Thir­teen-year-old se­cond base­man Caleb Poitras then de­liv­ered a half-swing that went for two-run sin­gle and the Knights bat­ted through the en­tire order be­fore they were re­tired.

Heck started the se­cond in­ning strik­ing out Martin but walked the next bat­ter he faced, Pre­ston Weight­man, and that set the stage for Dre­her, who dou­bled in the fifth Knights run.

“The first in­ning was the dif­fer­ence, we were asleep that first in­ning and kind of woke up after that,” said Ex­pos man­ager Tom Grif­fiths. “We just weren’t ready to field the ball, that’s what we had prob­lems with.

“We lack some hit­ting be­cause we came through the wild card to get here. It was four games in two days there and we won three of them and we just pounded the ball all over the place. To­day we just weren’t awake.”

The Ex­pos got on the board in the fourth in­ning. Short­stop Miller Mulc­ahy led off the in­ning with a dou­ble and Si­las Hussey’s base hit scored Mulc­ahy.

The Ex­pos added two more in the sev­enth off Knights re­liever Lucas Kelly but ran out of innings.

Lank was helped out of a jam a cou­ple of times when catcher Gaboury let loose his can­non throw­ing arm to gun down Van­cou­ver baserun­ners try­ing to steal.

“He’s awe­some, he’s prob­a­bly the best catcher in B.C., and to have him on the team is a big deal,” said Lank.

The Ex­pos have eight first-year ban­tams on a 10-player ros­ter and have just one player (who is in­jured and did not make the trip) re­main­ing from the team that over­came a 7-1 deficit and beat the Knights last year 9-8 in the pro­vin­cial fi­nal. In that game, the Ex­pos scored four runs in the sev­enth in­ning to over­come an 8-5 deficit, hav­ing trailed 7-1 at one point.

The Knights used that as added mo­ti­va­tion Thurs­day, play­ing in what was the first home game of their rep team base­ball ca­reers.

“The boys are ex­cited to play at home in front of their fans and they’re also ex­cited to get some re­venge against these guys, be­cause they took us out last year at the provin­cials and it still stings a bit,” said Knights coach Doug Clark.

“It was nice to get that first win out of the way. They got on the bats right away and stayed on it. Noah al­ways pitches well for us. We know we’re go­ing to get a lot of strikes from him and then he came up and hit a big home run for us late in the game. The boys are fired up. They were all hit­ting line drives and play­ing good de­fence.”

Lank will get his next start Satur­day at noon against Lad­ner and Poitras knows his team will be in good hands with him on the mound.

“Noah, I don’t un­der­stand – the kid’s a beast,” said Poitras. “He throws hard. It’s crazy to watch him.”

The Knights re­turn to the field at 9 a.m. to­day to face the Burn­aby Braves, who opened with a 12-10 win over the Lad­ner Red Sox. The teams have not faced each other since the Knights beat them last year in the pro­vin­cial semi­fi­nal.

The Ex­pos also face Burn­aby in their next game to­day at 5:30 p.m.

Other open­ing-day scores were: North Lan­g­ley 12 Layritz 5; Tri-City 14 Sur­rey 4; North Shore 4 Cloverdale 1; Cowichan Val­ley 10 Van­cou­ver Vipers 7.

Jace Hamm of the Cowichan Val­ley Mus­tangs out­slugged Gaboury 10-4 in the fi­nal round of the home run derby Thurs­day night.

Hamm and Gaboury each hit seven over the fence in the pre­lim­i­nary round.

CIT­I­ZEN PHOTO BY JAMES DOYLE

Prince Ge­orge Jep­son Pe­tro­leum Knights player Noah Lank hurls a pitch against the Van­cou­ver Ex­pos on Thurs­day at Nechako Field. It was the first game of the B.C. Mi­nor Base­ball As­so­ci­a­tion U15 dou­ble-A cham­pi­onships for the home­town Knights.

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