CORNWALL – The day started well, but ended in disappointment for the North Dundas District High School (NDDHS) Devils as they missed out on a chance to advance by the slimmest of margins at the SD&G baseball championships Thurs., May 17.
Because of the number of teams entered, NDDHS, Seaway District High School and St. Joe’s would each play two games in one division while La Citadelle and Holy Trinity would only play one game in the other. The top two teams in each division advanced to the championship final, with the three and four seed playing in the consolation game.
The Devils were forced to play back-to-back games and kicked off the tournament against St. Joe’s early on the Thursday morning. Coach James Shaw had the players arrive an hour early and the extra prep time helped them as they jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Curtis Barkley cleared the bases on a two out, two strike double.
“Barkley hasn’t played in at least a year, if not two and his first at bat, I put him in the six spot. With two out and two strikes to hit that base clearing double, was amazing,” said Shaw. “It was really good to start the game with those runs. It set the tone and it gave us a cushion when they came back and answered.”
And answer they did as St. Joe’s scored five runs to lead 5-4 after the first and it seemed like we would be in for a heavy weight, beer league slug-fest. But, the pitchers calmed their nerves and the second inning with the Devils scoring two and St. Joes scoring one as the teams were deadlocked at 6-6 after two innings.
Starting Devils pitcher Matthew Roach started to settle in and find the zone while the NDDHS bats came alive in the top of the fourth inning.
Justin Shay hammered a triple with the bases loaded to make it 9-6 and would score moments later on a passed ball to make it 10-6. The Devils never looked back.
“That ball was a rope. He pulled it and he hit down that third base line and that was huge. I think that was the turning point of the game,” said Shaw.
Barkley and Roach would also score to complete a seven-run fourth inning to make it 13-6.
With the Panthers threatening to rally with some very aggressive base running, catcher Cam Hermer made a clutch play to run down a St. Joe’s runner on third to end the inning – a play that seemed to break the spirits of the Panthers squad.
Roach pitched with control and cruised the rest of the way as the Devils earned a 15-8 victory. Shaw was very happy with his starting pitcher as Roach earned the complete game win and finished with six strikeouts.
“Roach was phenomenal. I didn’t doubt him ever. He attacked the zone with strikes. He didn’t mix up his pitches too much, but he was consistent and that’s all you can ask. Stay consistent, challenge the hitters and the guys behind him looked after him,” said Shaw.
Along with Shay and Barkley, Jarrett Williams also had a strong game for the Devils.
“He never came back to the dugout. He had two or three singles and walks so for him to come up to the plate and do exactly what he practiced to shoot two or three balls straight up the middle was the icing on the cake,” said Shaw.
NDDHS barely had time to catch their breath before facing a young Seaway District High School squad made up of mostly club players from the Seaway Surge in the second half of their double header.