Baseball season complete following a tough regional weekend
Inconsistent play down the stretch results in an early exit for the reigning silver medalists as they fail to clinch a provincial playoff spot
The men’s baseball team failed to advance to the Ontario University Athletics West Regional finals after losing 10 to eight against the Brock Badgers on Oct. 7. Finishing their regular season with a four and seven record, the Marauders’ championship redemption will wait another year following three consecutive playoff losses.
At last year’s OUA finals, McMaster University lost the title game six to two to the Toronto Varsity Blues. That season, the team entered the playoffs without major contributors Nicolas Velocci and Mark Zanette due to a collision at their qualifier against the Guelph Gryphons. Despite their injuries, the Marauders did manage to work their way into the semifinals, beating the Carleton Ravens six to five before losing to Toronto.
Heading into the 2022 playoffs, the Marauders faced stout competition in their final set of regular season games. Starting with a doubleheader against the Gryphons on Oct. 1, the team struggled to hold their own against a top-seeded opponent.
In game one, McMaster fell to the Gryphons in a close three to two matchup that went to extra innings. Rookie Benjamin Cook pitched phenomenally, allowing just two runs over seven innings of play. His replacement, James (Rory) Bredin, stymied hitters across two innings before Ashton Patterson’s RBI single in the tenth gave the Gryphons their eventual three to two win.
Following the defeat, Kenneth Noguchi took the mound in the second game; however, three defensive errors in the first left the Marauders in a four to zero hole. While McMaster would claim four runs by the fifth inning, the Gryphons completed the sweep with a 12 to four victory.
The next day, the team played the Windsor Lancers in a consecutive doubleheader. Despite their short rest, McMaster dominated Lancers’ pitching, collecting 16 runs across the pair of games to win eight to three in the first game and eight to four in the second.
Riding the back-to-back victories, the team prepared to take on their regional qualifier against the Gryphons and Brock Badgers on Oct. 7.
While Brock gained an early five to one lead in their first contest, McMaster pooled together four runs in the bottom of the fourth to tie the score. Shortly after, Brock returned with their own four run rally on back-to-back-to-back doubles in the sixth. The Badgers would keep their lead and finish the game with a final line score of 10 to seven.
Against Guelph, the Gryphons lineup continued to torment the Marauders' staff. After two innings of play, the Gryphons held a six run lead. The team kept adding on until the score reached 11-1, activating the fifth inning mercy rule to hand McMaster their second tournament defeat.
On Oct. 8, the Marauders returned to face Brock for a chance to play Guelph in the tournament finale, needing to win both games in order to advance. The team came out swinging, leading to an offensive frenzy capped off by a bases-loaded, 3 RBI triple by Gabriel Knox that put McMaster up eight to three going into the bottom of the seventh.
Unfortunately, the pitching came undone, with the Badgers pulling ahead 10 to eight in the eighth inning on a four run rally. Senior pitcher Hayden Stam closed out the game to knock McMaster out of the playoffs.
The Badgers would go on to lose to Guelph 14 to two in the West Regional final.
Having played in his last season, Zanette imparted some final advice for his teammates, reminding them to always keep their plate approach the same no matter the situation.
“When you’re young and you’re having your first, second, third, at bats in the OUA and the pressure’s on, guys are yelling at you. . . it can get a little intimidating. But just sticking to your approach and doing your own thing is the biggest thing,” said Zanette.
Joining Zanette, Noguchi, Philip Hache and Colin Heron will be departing from the baseball program next year. Despite their losses, Heron hopes this year’s OUAs will be a steppingstone for the team to grow as athletes and leaders on the bench.
“I think that a lot of those players that got their feet wet this year, going forward, are going to be able to draw from that experience and perform well. . . [These playoffs] will serve as a good opportunity to build that experience for the future,” said Heron.
For its ten rookies, maturity and development will be key to the rosters future success. Although they failed to improve upon last season’s silver medal, the Marauders’ young core of talent will be interesting to watch in their 2023 campaign.