The COVID-19 extended championship run for the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades baseball team is over.
The Cascades were the last team to win the Canadian College Baseball Conference back in 2019 after the pandemic threw a major wrench into the league’s plans over the ensuing two years.
The CCBC Fall Championship saw all eight teams head to Kelowna over Thanksgiving weekend to battle it out.
UFV went a perfect 3-0 in round robin play and then defeated the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs 5-3 in the semifinals on Sunday (Oct. 10) evening.
The Cascades squared off with the 2018 champion Okanagan Coyotes in Monday’s (Oct. 11) final. The two teams also met for both the 2018 and 2019 championships.
Okanagan College scored one run in each of the first and second innings on Monday, but in the bottom of the second, run-scoring hits by Ryan West and Ty Crowe tied the game at two.
The two teams each plated a run in the fourth, but the Coyotes broke the game open with a four-run fifth, capitalizing on Cascade fielding errors.
In the bottom of the eighth, now trailing 8-3, the Cascades mounted a rally and pushed two runs across as West and Crowe earned bases-loaded walks. Coyotes reliever Jessie Poniewozik worked his way out of the jam, though, striking out Josh Berenbaum and Stephen Horner to end the inning.
Okanagan College effectively put the game away with four runs in the top of the ninth.
West and Crowe both finished with two RBI for the Cascades, Eric Einarson and Jack Ray scored two runs apiece, and Connor Coverret went 3-for-5 at the plate.
“It was one of those games where maybe you beat yourself a little bit,” Darvill said. “A couple plays didn’t go our way, but a lot of credit to Okanagan College. It was a long weekend for them as well, and they grinded it out. It wasn’t due to effort or competitiveness, it just didn’t go our way this time.
“It’s a really great rivalry (with the Coyotes). This league as a whole is really growing, and the level of talent of guys staying in Canada is really high. It’s fun going to battle with those guys. They’re well-coached and they’ve got great players. It’s going to be fun in the future, trying to get that title back.”
Coverret led all hitters with a .500 batting average at the tournament, while Horner was one of only two players to hit home runs. Cascades pitcher Sasha Kamenjasevic was second in strikeouts at the event with nine in 5.2 innings pitched.
In the aftermath, Darvill tipped his cap to the Cascades’ graduating seniors. A trio of players – Dylan Emmons, Evan Petersen and Liam Campbell – have been with the UFV club since its inception in 2016, and graduating athletes like Ryan West and Dylan Sheardown are also set to move on.
“I’m just so proud of these guys,” Darvill said. “The competitive spirit they have and the culture they’ve built in this baseball program is extremely rare. It’s just a pleasure to be out there with them.
“They left it all on the field, and I’m so appreciative of what they’ve done for the program. They’re not just amazing baseball players, they’re special people who will have success in whatever walk of life they go into.
“We’re going to carry on that legacy.”