By CJ Pentland
Canadian Baseball Network
Heading into the British Columbia Premier League Final 4 in Victoria, the North Shore Twins’ first goal was simply to win their first game in order to set up an easier route to the final.
Yet things didn’t go as planned in Friday’s opener: their bats fell silent, their pitching struggled, and the pesky Okanagan A’s came away with a 6-5 win in extra innings. After the game, head coach John Haar told his team that they’d have to fight for their lives now: “it’s all or nothing.”
North Shore then responded with an offensive explosion that Haar had never seen the likes of before in his 50-plus years in baseball.
The Twins’ bats turned red hot from the get-go in Saturday’s contest against the Nanaimo Pirates, putting up 11 runs in the first inning and coasting to a 22-4 mercy-rule victory. Taylor Wright, Brandon Currie, and Trevor Fonseca all hit home runs, while Wright went a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with four RBIs and a walk.
The hot bats carried over into the evening’s game, as North Shore plated 12 runs over the first three innings and rolled to another mercy-rule victory over the Victoria Eagles – this time by the score of 12-2. Wright hit another round-tripper, and Steve Moretto had a 3-for-3 game of his own to go along with three RBIs. Their run tally over the past two games: 34 runs scored in eight innings at the plate.
The hit parade led them to first place after the round robin stage of the Final 4, and set up a Sunday final against the Nanaimo Pirates, who had defeated the Victoria Eagles 5-2 earlier in the day to advance. North Shore had already rolled over Pirates one day earlier with their 22-4 win, yet a close final was still expected since Nanaimo finished the regular season in second place behind the Twins. Things proceeded to start that way, as the score stood at 3-2 for North Shore heading into the bottom of the third.
That’s when the floodgates burst open again.
The Twins sent 18 batters to the plate in the frame, rapping out seven hits, drawing three walks, and taking advantage of four Nanaimo errors to score 13 runs before the third out could be recorded.
“We just exploded at the plate,” said Haar. “Even the outs that they finally got were hard hit. We whacked some home runs for sure, and it seemed like each player was kinda contagious … a couple guys get it going and then a few others jump on board. I’ve never seen that at this level for sure, where kids just whack balls all over the yard.”
The game didn’t close out in as tidy of a fashion as Haar would have hoped, but come the end of 4 1/2 innings the Twins had closed out their third straight mercy-rule victory – this one an 18-7 win that made them 2015 BCPBL champions.
The victory capped off a season that saw North Shore set the tone from Day 1 and post an over-all record of 37-11. They sat atop the standings for the majority of the regular season, and despite some injuries they allowed the fewest total runs in the PBL while scoring the second-most. They became the second team in league history to win both the regular season pennant and Final 4 championship in the same season, after the Langley Blaze turned the trick last season by defeating the Twins in the final in extra innings.
For a select group of Twins – Will McAffer, Matthew Reyes, MacGregor Sharpe, Braeden Toikka, Matteo Vincelli, Robert Hemer, twins Ryan and Trevor Fonseca, Ehresman and Wright – they also completed the feat of winning both the pennant and championship in both the junior and senior PBL circuit.
“We really did have a great group of young kids, and just seemed to mould together,” said Haar, who led the Twins to their first championship since winning three in a row back from 2007 to 2009. “There were good relationships, we didn’t have any conflicts among any players on the team – I don’t think there were any cliques or anything like that. We cheered hard, [and] we worked hard for each other. I always tried to impress upon the kids that they practice at a higher rate of energy than that you’d need to win games: don’t try and coast through practice sessions and then pick your game up to a playing level – they need to do the reverse. And I think they responded to that.
“We enjoyed preparation for games and spent a long time preparing for each one, and I think it paid off for them.”
There isn’t much of a break for the Twins, as they’ll be heading to Sherbrooke, Que. in over a week to represent BC at the 18U National Championships (BC Minor Baseball typically sent the BC team, but it left Baseball BC and the Baseball Canada umbrella this season).
In the meantime, Fonseca and Moretto have already left for Saskatoon to play for Team BC at the Canada Cup, while several others will briefly head down to the US to register for school before playing one last tournament with the Twins. McAffer will be the only one who won’t be able to join, as he’ll be with the Junior National Team; Langley pitcher Cooper Misic will fill in for him.
A national championship would be the icing on the cake for Haar and the Twins, but this past weekend they already solidified themselves as one of the most complete BCPBL teams in recent memory.
“It was a pretty exceptional performance by a bunch of good young kids,” said Haar. “We had a lot of fun – a lot of work – but a lot of fun, and I think they were justly rewarded.”