Bearcats primed for semi­fi­nal

Truro to host first-place Syd­ney for Game 1 on Fri­day at 7 p.m.

Truro Daily News - - SPORTS - SALTWIRE NET­WORK

The Truro Bearcats are com­fort­able wear­ing the un­der­dog la­bel in their Nova Sco­tia Se­nior Baseball League semi­fi­nal series against the Syd­ney Soon­ers.

“We’ve been la­belled that the last two years and it’s worked just fine for us,” Bearcats pitcher John Chap­man said on Wed­nes­day.

The Soon­ers are a heavy favourite in the best-of-five series, which be­gins Fri­day in Truro at the TAAC Grounds at 7 p.m.

The Soon­ers fin­ished first in the reg­u­lar sea­son with a 19-8 record and won six of seven games against the Bearcats (9-19, fourth place) this sum­mer.

It’s a fa­mil­iar spot for the Bearcats. In 2015, they fin­ished fourth but de­feated the first-place Soon­ers in a semi­fi­nal series. Last year, Truro was again the fourth seed, but dis­posed of the Kentville Wild­cats in the first round.

The Bearcats had an aw­ful start to their sea­son, los­ing their first 13 games. How­ever, they won nine of 15 to close out the reg­u­lar cam­paign and edge out the Wild­cats for the fourth and fi­nal play­off spot.

Soon­ers coach Jim (Rico) McEach­ern isn’t tak­ing the Bearcats lightly.

“It’s an en­tirely new sea­son,” the Soon­ers’ long-time field boss said. “Our first place wins don’t mean too much now.

“Truro has played us as tough as any­body this year so I look for a very com­pet­i­tive and close series. Even those games we won six of seven, for the most part, those games were close. When they are go­ing, Truro can have as good as any of­fen­sive team out there. In a short series, any­thing can hap­pen.”

The Bearcats will also host Game 2 at the TAAC Grounds Satur­day at 2 p.m. be­fore the series switches to Syd­ney.

Game 3 will be held Fri­day, Sept. 15 at Su­san McEach­ern Me­mo­rial Field. If Games 4 and 5 are needed, they will be played as a dou­ble­header in Syd­ney on Sept. 16.

“Ev­ery­body starts the new sea­son now,” said Chap­man, who will pitch the opener for Truro. “The real sea­son’s here and we have as good a chance as they do to win and it’s go­ing to be a bat­tle right to the end.”

The Bearcats have been led this sea­son by the vet­eran trio of Jeff Chisholm, Dar­son Mur­phy and Chap­man.

Chisholm bat­ted .289 with 19 runs, Mur­phy led the league in hits with 36 and Chap­man was a jack of all trades for Truro.

He bat­ted .359 with 15 stolen bases and led the league in in­nings pitched (75), tied for the lead in wins (five) and fin­ished top five in ERA (2.64) and strike­outs (53). The Soon­ers will be pitch­ing to them care­fully.

“The key is to try and not get any of their bat­ters go­ing col­lec­tively,” McEach­ern said. “We can’t take them lightly. We need to try to limit their hits to­gether and get our­selves go­ing of­fen­sively.”

The Soon­ers were led by Cory Christie, who led the league with a .426 bat­ting av­er­age, and Jor­don Shep­herd, who knocked in a league-high 32 runs and tied team­mate Devon Ma­honey with an NSSBL-best five home runs.

Syd­ney, how­ever, will be with­out the ser­vices of Ma­honey, who bat­ted .380, tied for the league lead in runs scored (23) and was a force on the mound with a sparkling 0.17 ERA and 57 strike­outs in 53 in­nings pitch.

The 22-year-old Cal­i­for­nia im­port left the team ear­lier than ex­pected to pur­sue a semi-pro­fes­sional ca­reer in Aus­tralia.

The other NSSBL semi­fi­nal will be played be­tween the Dart­mouth Moose­head Dry and the Hal­i­fax Pel­ham Mol­son Cana­di­ans.

FiLe pHoTo

Truro Bearcats ace John Chap­man will get the ball in his team’s NSSBL play­off opener on Fri­day against the Sydney Soon­ers.

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