Weston saves the day for Ontario
* RP Blake Weston (Oakville, Ont.) gets the final four outs to save Ontario’s 9-8 win over British Columbia in the Canada Cup. Photo: April Whitzman ….
By Kevin Glew
Showcasing a sinewy, athletic frame, a biting fastball and poise under pressure, Blake Weston looked and pitched like a teenage John Axford on Sunday night.
The 17-year-old right-hander from Oakville, Ont., secured the final four outs – three by strikeout – to preserve a 9-8 victory for Team Ontario against a gritty B.C. squad in the Canada Cup championship game at Labatt Park in London, Ontario.
“When I came in from the bullpen, I was kind of nervous, but once I got in there, I beared down and all I could see was the catcher’s mitt and I just went from there. I just tried to pound the zone and get the team the gold,” said Weston, amidst Team Ontario’s post-game celebration on the field. “I love to pitch in pressure-packed situations. I love the spotlight. I just bear down and try to get the job done.”
Heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, Team Ontario owned a comfortable 9-4 lead before B.C. recorded four runs off of Ontario right-handers Daniel Procopio and J.D. Osborne. With his squad now clinging to a 9-8 lead, Team Ontario head coach Marc Picard summoned Weston, who had shutout B.C. for three innings on Saturday, from the bullpen.
Following the game, Picard said he was looking for an experienced arm in that situation and Weston, who also played for Team Ontario in 2011, had the benefit of watching Cal Quantrill record crucial outs last year.
“I felt pretty comfortable putting Blake in there in that situation,” said Picard. “Blake had thrown some innings earlier in the tournament for us, so we didn’t feel we could bring him in really early. We wanted to wait as long as we could and obviously we couldn’t wait any longer.”
Weston has shunned elite programs in favour of suiting up for his hometown Oakville team in the Ontario Baseball Assocation. That made the affable 6-foot-3, 180-pound right-hander one of the country’s best kept baseball secrets until he impressed Team Canada scouts at a Junior National Team (JNT) tryout camp in June 2011. Later that summer, he was selected to play for Team Ontario.
“I actually started pitching at this tournament (Canada Cup) last year,” said Weston. “I went to tryout for Team Ontario as a centre fielder and I went 1-for-9. I didn’t do that well and we ran out of pitching and they needed a pitcher to eat up a few innings and ever since then I’ve been a pitcher.”
After his initial Team Ontario experience, he would make the JNT in 2011 and earlier this summer, he was named to the all-tournament team at the 16th annual Sunbelt Classic in McAlester, Ok.
“One of Blake’s biggest assets is certainly his ability to throw strikes with more than one pitch,” said Picard. “He’s able to throw strikes with his fastball and his curveball. Also his size lends himself to being a pitcher and to a future as a pitcher … And he’s kind of fearless, his whole demeanor out there, you can’t really tell whether he’s winning or losing.”
These assets were on display at Labatt Park on Sunday night when Weston slammed the door on a late B.C. rally. Armed with a fastball that has been clocked in the high 80s, Weston finished this year’s Canada Cup with two wins, a save and a 1.75 ERA in four contests. Eligible for the big league draft in 2013, the tall, lean hurler is starting to garner attention from scouts.
“We’ll see where things take me. I’m just going to go with the flow and I’m just going to try to pitch the best that I can and hope for the best,” said Weston about his future on the diamond.
For his part, Picard believes Weston’s future is bright.
“This year he had some injury issues early and it’s been a long road back for him,” said Picard. “But tonight is probably the best I’ve seen him throw all year, so hopefully he can build on that. Because if he can and based on what I’ve seen before, he has a very bright future.”