17U Boys Win First Ever Canada Cup
Every so often, an event takes place that can be described as ‘Historic’. Given the rich baseball history of Nova Scotia, it’s not often we can use that term to describe the accomplishments of an individual or team. If what occurred on Monday, August 12th at 1:13 am ADT in Regina, Saskatchewan does not qualify as a ‘historic’ moment, we will likely never see one.
With a 3-2 count on the Ontario hitter, 2 outs, and the tying run on second base, Ethan McLellan of Hants County cemented the 2019 edition of the Nova Scotia 17U Selects place in the history books. Ethan blew a fastball by the batter, causing an eruption of emotion not only at Optimist Park in Regina, but all across Nova Scotia.
Since the inaugural Canada Cup in 1989, many talented Nova Scotia ball players have represented our province at the Canada Cup. Bringing together the best players from Clarks Harbour to New Waterford, our athletes have always represented the province with pride and heart. There are dozens of examples from these teams of players turning professional, or becoming very successful college athletes. Other’s have gone on to continue representing Nova Scotia at the National level, bringing home medals at the 21U and Senior Men’s events.
Our 1995 group brought home a Bronze medal from the tournament in Waterloo. A talented group, that featured future Senior stars, and a handful of future college players, would bring home the provinces only Canada Cup medal of 90’s. It would be 23 years before another medal would be brought back to Nova Scotia soil.
The 2018 Nova Scotia 17U Selects faced much adversity at the tournament hosted by Moncton, New Brunswick. Close battles in the round robin, resulted in the group narrowly advancing to the Quarter final by finishing 2nd in Group B on a tie breaker. Sitting at 3-2 on the tournament, a dominant performance in the Quarter Final by Evan O’Toole of Bridgewater saw the Bluenose squad upset perennial powerhouse Quebec by a score of 2-0. Nova Scotia gave British Columbia everything they could handle, but fell 10-6 after BC broke out late in the game. This set up the first ever all Maritime medal game match up at the Canada Cup with neighboring rival, New Brunswick. Three hit games from Micah McDowell (Kentville) Layton Cuvilier (Hantsport) and Jake MacKinnon (Dartmouth) paced the team to a dominant 9-3 win and the Provinces first medal since 1995.
It’s hard to imagine topping the high of standing on the podium for the first time in 23 years. The 2019 17U team was faced with the unenviable task of living up to the success of the previous years edition. Nine returning players provided enough of a core to be optimistic about the teams chances in 2019, along with the return of Head Coach, Kevin Richardson (Lower Sackville) and Pitching Coach, Larry Hood (Chester).
Training indoors almost every weekend from January to April, the coaching staff had the tough task of forming a core team, and then a final roster from that group. The final team featured representation from around the Province, and players who have taken very different paths to get to the Selects team. Some have come through BNS Provincial programming at the 13U and 15U level. Some were representing BNS for the first time. One thing was for certain: it was a good baseball team.
2019 Nova Scotia 17U Final Roster
Boudreau, Tyler - Bedford
Boutilier, Nathan – Dartmouth
Boutilier, Noah – Dartmouth
Cowan, Shane – Fall River
Cuvilier, Layton - Hantsport
Fitzgerald, Ryan – Lucasville
Hanrahan, Parker – Glace Bay
Hunt, Kyle – Hammonds Plains
MacMullin, Brett – Sydney
Mann, Timmy - Dartmouth
McLaughlin, Duncan - Dartmouth
McLellan, Ethan – Hants County
O’Brien, Nolan – Hebbville
O’Rourke, Corson – Sydney
Rendell, Camden – Upper Tantallon
Riesgo, Camillo - Sackville
Short, Michael - Fall River
Sibley, Breton – Glace Bay
Song, Kiwean - Bedford
The team participated in the 21U Bluenose League against older athletes from Dartmouth, Kentville, Bridgewater, Halifax, and Hammonds Plains/Tri County (East Coast). In 19 games, the team amassed a 15-4 record. The team also participated in several tournaments around Atlantic Canada to prepare for the Canada Cup.
Going into the Canada Cup in Regina, much of the talk centered around the traditional powerhouses; Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. Ontario was an 8 time champion, and the defending champion from the previous years tournament in Moncton. Our team would have to survive the intense 5 game round robin in the B Pool. Featuring tough competition from Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, PEI, and Newfoundland, it would not have been wise to look past any one of these teams.
Game 1 against Alberta proved to be a low scoring affair, as expected. Tyler Boudreau (Sackville) threw 5 2/3 masterful innings to maintain a 1-0 lead into the late innings. Parker Hanrahan (Glace Bay) provided effective relief, until an Alberta batter managed to hit a solo home run with one out in the 7th to tie the game. International tie breaking rules came into effect for the 8th inning (runners starting on 1st and 2nd). In the top half of the inning, Nova Scotia managed to put one run across via a Noah Boutilier (Dartmouth) single. Alberta would bunt the runners over in the bottom of the 8th, bringing in Timmy Mann (Dartmouth) to try and strand the runners. A fielder’s choice and pop out secured a dramatic 2-1 victory.
Game 2 presented a battle with Manitoba. Although being outhit 9-3, Duncan McLaughlin (Dartmouth) spun five solid innings to hold Manitoba down. Taking advantage of two errors by Manitoba in the bottom of the 4th, Nova Scotia would score all the runs they needed to come out with a 3-2 win.
Game 3 was a rematch from 2018’s Bronze Medal game, against New Brunswick. A tight 3-3 game heading into the 7th on the back of solid pitching performances from Ethan McLellan (Hants County), Layton Cuvilier (Hantsport) and Timmy Mann (Dartmouth), the team surrendered three runs to fall behind 6-3 heading to the bottom of the 7th. Taking advantage of five walks by New Brunswick pitching, Nova Scotia was paced by a clutch triple from Michael Short (Fall River) to complete the 7-6 come back win.
Game 4 proved to be a seesaw battle with Newfoundland. A victory would secure 1st place in group B for Nova Scotia. Some timely Newfoundland offence put Nova Scotia down 11-6 heading to the bottom of the six. It didn’t seem likely the team would be clinching 1st place at the conclusion of this game. Cue the second comeback of the tournament. Two runs in the 6th, followed by a four run 7th winning provided a 12-11 walk off victory. Breton Sibley (Glace Bay) provided the final blow with a bases clearing double in the 7th.
Game 5 saw a tight contest with Prince Edward Island. The two sides faces each other several times this season, but PEI would win this round, 3-1. It didn’t matter though. Nova Scotia was guaranteed another top 4 finish and the chance to play for a medal on Sunday.
The Semi Final match would set up a rematch from 2018’s Quarter Final with Quebec. The Quebec squad finished 1st in Group A, just edging out Ontario and British Columbia. Looking for revenge from 2018, Quebec held a 1-0 lead heading into the 6th inning. Our boys had been in this situation a couple times already this tournament. The experience obviously helped. One out singles from Layton Cuvilier and Nick Gravel (Fall River) tied the game at 1. Noah Boutilier (Dartmouth) reached via error to set the stage for Cam Rendell (Upper Tantallon). Rendell drove in two runs on a 1-out double to put his team ahead 3-1. Needing only three outs to secure their spot in the Gold Medal game, the pressure was put on early in the bottom of the 7th when Quebec lead off with a double. Cuvilier would come in with the tough task of securing the victory for Tyler Boudreau, who had stymied Quebec hitters through six innings. Cuvilier was up to the challenge, as two fly outs and a strike out would secure Nova Scotia’s first ever birth in the Canada Cup National Championship.
Ontario is an intimidating opponent, no matter what sport or level you’re playing them at. Being the countries biggest province, and a traditional baseball powerhouse, no one would fault the Nova Scotia team for having their dream tournament stopped short at the hands of the defending National Champions. A silver medal would be a massive accomplishment with much celebration. Obviously, no one told this to our guys.
Duncan McLaughlin would get the ball again in the finals. The pitcher from Dartmouth brought valuable experience to the high pressured situation, as a part of the 2018 Bronze Medal team. Ontario had put up nine runs on British Columbia in the Semi Final, so keeping their bats at bay is no easy assignment.
It would be the underdog Nova Scotia team striking first. In the bottom of the 1st inning, lead off walks to Cuvilier and Gravel would set Boutilier up to drive in a run with a single. 1-0 Nova Scotia after one.
The next three innings would be a pitcher’s duel. Neither side budging. McLaughlin was cruising along with nine strike outs on the day. Nova Scotia was just looking for that one breakout inning. Layton Cuvilier would give them that innings.
Cuvilier lead the bottom of the 5th off with a booming triple. Gravel would walk, once again setting Boutilier up for a single to drive in two runs. 3-0 Nova Scotia.
The top of the 6th saw Ontario finally see some success against the Nova Scotia defence. After putting across two runs to cut Nova Scotia’s lead to one, Ethan McLellan faced the daunting task of coming in with zero outs and the bases loaded.
McLellan induced a weak grounder that turned into a fielder’s choice to the catcher, followed by two massive strike outs. 3-2 Nova Scotia heading to the 7th.
It’s never over until it’s over. The final 3 outs are always the toughest to get. Especially while trying to preserve a one run game against a powerhouse like Ontario. McLellan was the right guy to have on the mound for this situation. Two strike outs put our boys within one out of a Gold Medal. Of course, Ontario would not go down quietly, as a single and error extended the game by putting the tying run on second base.
Then it happened.
A 3-2 count on Ontario’s number two batter was met with a booming fastball. This overpowering fast ball was enough to freeze the hitter for strike three. The Nova Scotia 17U Selects could call themselves National Champions.
One could hear the collective cheer across the province. Avid fans and followers flooded Baseball Nova Scotia social media accounts with messages of congratulations, both to the team and individuals alike. Even in the wee hours of Monday morning, all eyes were glued on the Game Changer app, or live feeds provided by proud parents at the tournament.
Executive Director, Brandon Guenette, provided comment on the massive accomplishment to CBC. "It's an incredibly tough tournament for a smaller province to compete in. Going 6-1, with all six wins decided by two runs or less, shows how little room for error there is at the national level. They came up big, game after game."
The victory has caught the attention of not only the baseball world, but all sports fans around the Province.
Former Nova Scotia 17U Select player, and current New York Yankee prospect, Jake Sanford of Dartmouth, expressed his excitement via his Twitter account.
Nova Scotia Premier, Stephen MacNeil, also sent his congratulations over Twitter.
Head Coach, Kevin Richardson, provided comment to HalifaxToday, on the accomplishment. "I think we really put a lot of emphasis on team, resiliency, and picking each other up," says Richardson. "I mean, we talk about strong pitching, solid defence, and timely hitting, and that's exactly what we did all week." "The program itself has been evolved over the years, and it's really come a long way so the program should be there," explains Richardson.
"For Baseball Nova Scotia, it's massive, it's huge, it puts us on the mark, and as a small province we can compete with the big provinces."
The word “Historic” can sometimes be used loosely and not always in a deserving context. The 2019 Nova Scotia 17U Selects have earned the right to that label.