On Sunday in Burnaby, Mike Ellis and the underdog North Fraser Nationals found a way to derail the Sun Devils’ aspirations of claiming back-to-back titles.
In the semifinals, in a bona fide pitcher’s duel, Ellis allowed just four hits and struck out 10 as the Nationals eliminated Kelowna with a 2-1 win.
Nathan Ringness-Law, who went 8-0 during the regular season, was nearly as solid for the Sun Devils, allowing five hits and a pair of runs in five-plus innings.
In the end, a go-ahead, two-run home run in the fourth inning by Nick Santarelli stood up as the difference as the heavily-favoured Sun Devils watched their 2018 season come to an abrupt halt.
Down by a run, the Sun Devils threatened with base runners in both the sixth and seventh innings with just one out, but couldn’t find a way to get the equalizing run home.
“As I’ve said before, any given Sunday, anything can happen,” Sun Devils coach Rob Law said. “It was just a great game and that performance by Mike (Ellis) was the best against us all year, he’s an unbelievable pitcher. We just couldn’t execute when we needed to. That’s baseball.”
While Sunday’s loss wasn’t the desired result for the Sun Devils, Law said there were more than a few positives to take away from the 2018 campaign.
“We finished first in back-to-back years, we set a club record for wins this season, the program just continues to get better and better,” said Law. “We can sit here and harp on stuff that happened (at provincials), but that’s the way it goes. Hopefully it does leave a bad taste in the guys’ mouths and those returning players will be even hungrier.
“There’s no reason to hang our heads,” he added, “it just wasn’t our time.”
Despite the graduation of seniors Tyson Lamb, Jordan Laidlaw and Ethan Soroka, Jackson Sowerby and Spencer Klassen, with 11 returning players, Law expects the Sun Devils will be “very talented” again in 2019.
Kelowna has filed an application for a promotion into the College Prep League next season but has yet to receive an answer from BC Baseball.
“That’s where our program needs to go, it’s the next step in our evolution,” said Law. “We’re ready and we’re hoping BC Baseball gives us the go-ahead.”
Meanwhile, North Fraser went on to capture the B.C. 18U AAA baseball title, defeating North Island 11-5 in the championship final.
The Nationals will represent B.C. at the 18U Blue Chip Prospect Tournament, Aug. 4 to 9 in Yapshank, NY.
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