By Cody Malloy
Tournament 12 concluded Friday morning with the championship game between Quebec-Blue and Prairies-Purple. Despite great performances on each side, it was Prairies-Purple which took home the title with a 1-0 win.
Both teams’ starting pitchers were sharp early. Prairies-Purple’s Zach Demchenko (Okotoks Academy) and Quebec-Blue’s William Sierra (Montreal Orioles) only needed five pitches each to get through the first inning.
“I felt pretty good, even though I was a little sick in the morning,” said Sierra, who pitched well in a losing effort. “I still got through it.”
In the top of the third inning, Quebec-Blue put runners on second and third with one out.
However, Demchenko got out of the jam by striking out two consecutive Quebec-Blue batters. After the third out, Demchenko bounded off the mound towards his team’s dugout and gave a massive fist pump.
“It was just a huge moment,” Demchenko said. “After putting in all of the work during the offseason, it finally paid off.”
Prairies-Purple scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the third inning, when a Brett Resch (Vauxhall Academy) single to centre field chased home shortstop Dylan Flasch (Team Saskatchewan).
“I’m speechless,” Resch said after knocking in the game’s lone run. “It felt awesome for the boys to win the game.”
Demchenko, who finished the title game having allowed just three hits and two walks while fanning eight in seven shutout innings, described the postgame atmosphere as “pure joy. We’re just out here making dreams.”
Demchenko got some help from his defence in the top of the seventh. After one out, Flasch made an incredible play to his right, sliding on one knee in the hole and then making a strong throw to first.
“[Demchenko] threw a great game and I just wanted to make a play for him,” Flasch said. “Off the bat, I knew it was going to be a tough play, so I knew I was going to have to slide and get it off quick because [the runner was quick].”
Prairies-Purple clinched their T12 victory when centre fielder Liam Giesbrecht (Team Manitoba) caught a fly ball to end the game.
The T12 most valuable player award went to Prairies-Purple pitcher Carson Perkins (Vauxhall Academy). Perkins went 2-0 and allowed just two earned runs on seven hits and a walk with five punchouts in nine innings.
“I tried to be the motivator and the guy that keeps everybody up, so it was awesome,” Perkins said of the championship game. “It was a great experience.”
Prairies-Purple also got a surprise visit Thursday night from Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who made a brief appearance in its dugout. Stroman had flown back from Atlanta to Toronto ahead of his teammates to prepare for his Friday night start against the Boston Red Sox.
Stroman mentioned how T12 is a really “cool opportunity for the kids,” and how he would have “loved to have the opportunity to play in such a tournament when I was this age.”
T12 commissioner Roberto Alomar was very happy with the way underdogs Prairies-Purple performed in the tournament.
“Their pitching did a great job, they played some good defence,” the Hall of Famer said. “In this kind of tournament, you don’t know who’s going to win. [And] the team that not a lot of people thought were going to win won the tournament.”
Alomar was very proud of how the tournament went.
“Overall, we saw some great talent,” he said. “I’m really proud of the guys, and I’m really proud of the teamwork. We could not do this alone; the guys behind the scenes did a lot of hard work. … Guys like Rob Jack, T.J. Burton, Jon Cram and Jake Paddle.”
Alomar also wanted to thank the Jays Care Foundation for raising the funds necessary to host the tournament.
“This tournament is great for the kids; it’s a great opportunity,” Alomar said. “You can see the smiles on all of the kids’ faces. I believe that in this tournament -- even though there is a championship team -- everyone is a winner. We give them this tournament to give them hope, so one day their dreams come true.”