A Nanaimo team finished on top after a season that was far from typical.
The Vancouver Island Mariners won the provincial championship for B.C. Minor Baseball’s U18 college prep division, defeating the Cloverdale Nationals 11-1 in the final Monday, Aug. 9, in Chilliwack.
“It was definitely a wild ride,” said Liam Goodall, the team’s coach.
He said at the start of the season, teams signed up not really knowing how the schedule would look or how the playoffs would be held. Either way, the Mariners ended up being the class of the league, winning the pennant with a 20-4 record.
Provincials were split into two four-team pools, one in Chilliwack and the other in Burnaby. After winning their first two games, V.I. showed up at the ballpark Saturday in Chilliwack to find the field under water and all games cancelled that day. Provincials carried over to a weekday, and V.I. defeated the Trail Orioles 4-0 in Monday’s semifinal before going on to the blowout win in the final.
“Weather was a bit iffy and our guys toughed through it and came out victorious,” Goodall said. “It was a long weekend, but it’s a testament to their work ethic and their focus. They knew what they wanted.”
The Mariners made sure the championship game was never in doubt, scoring multiple runs in each of the first three innings to take an insurmountable lead.
“At that point, we had one of our better pitchers on the mound and guys left over to close, so we felt pretty comfortable,” Goodall said.
He was glad to face Cloverdale in the final, as he said the Nationals are well-coached and have a good program, but just didn’t have it that day.
Connor Dawson was the winning pitcher for the Mariners in the final, giving up four hits and one run over five innings. Dylan Battye was 2-for-3 with a home run, Alex McLauchlan was 3-for-3 with three stolen bases and three runs scored and James Joyce hit two doubles and had two RBIs.
In the semifinal, Mason Nordli threw a seven-inning complete game, allowing two hits.
Many V.I. players have now come to the end of their minor baseball careers and will go on to college ball programs. Players who have received a scholarship or a letter of intent include Dawson, Nordli, McLauchlan, Joyce, Dru Wright, Jayden Mah, Alden Holzwarth and Caleb Battye. Goodall said he can’t say enough about how proud he is of his players and the way they have developed, persevered and excelled.
“It’s great to see the end of this chapter is guys going out with a ‘ship, and now they’re on to the next stage,” he said.