The Port Hood Blue Jays won the U11 Tier 5 Provincial Baseball Championship last weekend. Pictured are (front row, from the left): Luke Calder and Ryan Campbell. (Second row, from the left): Evran Beaton, Reid Antsey, Andrew MacNeil, Malcolm MacInnis, Blake Warcopp, Carter DeCoste, and Brier Nadasdi. (Back row, from the left): Ashton Hawley, Roddie Gillis, Colin MacDougall, and Gradin Spears. The coaches were: Ardell Hawley, Kenzie Campbell, Shane Nadasdi, and Jamieson Chisholm.

PORT HOOD: The Port Hood Blue Jays won the 11U Tier 5 Provincial Baseball Championship late last month.

Port Hood beat Inverness 11-0 in the final game on Aug. 28 in New Waterford.

“It was a pretty wild day with the scores being so close and three teams that were so even through round robin which made it a lot of fun and a valuable experience for the kids,” Port Hood Coach Ardell Hawley told The Reporter.

Describing the tournament as “very well run” and the fields in excellent condition, Hawley said his team finished in third place in the three-game round robin portion of the tournament that involved four teams.

“After the round robin, three teams finished with a 2-1 record so what they had to do then was come to a tie-breaker,” Hawley said. “Interestingly, the tie-breaker was least number of runs against, and we ended up having one more run against than the other two teams, Sydney Mines and Inverness, so we ended up finishing third. Sydney Mines and Inverness then had every tie-breaker scenario utilized, and they still were tied so they actually had to do a coin flip with Baseball Nova Scotia and Inverness won the coin toss which gave them a bye to the finals.”

The Blue Jays beat Sydney Mines 16-7 in the semi-finals.

Hawley said pitching was the “difference maker” for his team.

“Our pitching was fantastic throughout the weekend,” Hawley noted. “In a tournament like that there is a pitch count so you really have to utilize your pitchers carefully. We ended up having to use a couple of first year pitchers who had never pitched in a game before. They stepped right in both in the middle of the semi-final and the final, and pitched a couple of really key innings so that we could have our bigger, stronger second year kids finish the games off.”

The coach said their hitting also came through in the tournament.

“Our hitting had started to struggle as the summer was going on and so the boys really were committed to working on their batting during practice,” he noted. “The past couple of weeks, we were practicing every day for provincials, and they worked really, really hard on their batting. They were hitting, this weekend, unlike I’ve seen them in all the years. All that extra work in practice definitely paid off for them.”

Port Hood started off the tournament with an 8-7 win over Inverness, followed by a 15-3 win against New Waterford, then ended preliminary play with an 8-7 loss to Sydney Mines.

Although a cliché, Hawley said this was a team effort.

“Our veteran guys at the top of the order ended up getting a couple of outs, the bottom of the order picked them right back up,” he said.

The coach did note the performance of one particular player.

“A second year kid like Malcolm MacInnis really came through this weekend for us. He was almost unhittable on the mound, it seemed like whenever we needed a big hit, he was at the plate delivering. He really came to play this weekend and he’s a great leader on the field, but he’s also a great leader off the field. He makes all the first year kids really comfortable and confident and set a great example.”

For his part, MacInnis said he was “pretty excited” to take the provincial banner. In the championship game, he recorded 10 strikeouts and had a homerun in the semi-final. He also credited team work as the main reason for their win.

“I was nervous going into the first (semi-final) game against Sydney Mines,” he recalled. “My nerves kind of just went away.”

Before the championship game, Hawley and his coaches sat down with his team to explain the opportunity in front of them.

“We tried to explain that to the kids before the last game that a provincial tournament is a prestigious thing, and unfortunately something that I’ve never experienced as a player, so for these boys at the young ages of 10 and 11, to be able to say that they’re provincial champion is truly something that they will never forget,” he added.