Playing with what they called a ‘screw you attitude’, the Langley Blaze captured the provincial U18 baseball championship over the weekend.
The attitude stemmed from the fact the B.C. Premier Baseball League had docked the U18 squad a dozen games last month after the Blaze were found to have used ineligible players for a 17 game span (they went 12-5 during that time).
The decision knocked the team from first place to needing to win their last couple of games to sneak into the post-season.
The Blaze made the playoffs as the sixth seed with a 25-23 record and knocked off the third-seed Parksville Royals to make this past weekend’s PBL final four championships at Nat Bailey Stadium.
And from there, the team rode some outstanding pitching — they allowed just a single run over the three games — to claim the championship.
In the final, they beat the Coquitlam Reds 6-0.
“We wanted to face them, we cheered for them to make it,” said Blaze coach Jamie Bodaly.
There is a history of animosity between the two organizations and it was the Reds who filed the protest against Langley, resulting in the team forfeiting a dozen victories.
“We stayed classy, we just wanted to beat them on the field,” Bodaly said.
At the final four championships, the Blaze knocked off top seed Nanaimo 2-0 to start the double knockout tournament.
And Bodaly said once they had that victory under their belts, the team’s confidence skyrocketed.
“We had that ‘screw you’ attitude and the guys were fired up,” he said.
Garrett JAMES/Langley Times
Langley Blaze’s Scott McCarthy tags out a Coquitlam baserunner during his team’s 6-0 victory against the Coquitlam Reds in the B.C. PBL championship game at Nat Bailey Stadium on Sunday. The Blaze allowed just a single run over the three games at the league’s final four championships.
“They really wanted to win and after that first game, we knew we kind of had it.”
In the semifinals, with a berth straight to the finals at stake, Langley beat Victoria 6-1.
Coquitlam, who had already eliminated Nanaimo, earned the right to face the Blaze after they knocked off Victoria.
In the final, the teams were scoreless until the fifth when Langley put the game away with a big inning.
“We had a few jams, but our pitching got us out of it,” Bodaly said, adding the team was confident since they had plenty of arms ready to go in case Coquitlam won and forced one more game.
The Blaze, who had the lowest earned run average during the regular season, once again rode pitching to the championship.
They used just four pitchers — Kyle Joel and Tom Robson in the opener, and then complete games from Devon Stewart and Karl Malacek — over the three games. The only run surrendered against Victoria came off an error.
And when the other teams did threaten on the base paths — Nanaimo had runners on second and third multiple times in that first game, and Coquitlam also had their chances — but catcher Tyler Barlow had a great weekend throwing out base runners.
He shared tournament co-MVP honours with Mike Krische.
Krische, the team’s lead-off hitter, began each game by getting on base and setting the tone. He also scored the first run in all three contests.
Krische was named a first team all-star, while Barlow, Joel and Bill Germaine were second team all-stars.
Robson, Dustin Houle and Justin Atkinson were named top achievers.
The Blaze graduate 18 seniors, all of whom are off to the U.S. on either academic or baseball scholarships, a remarkable number.
Included in that group are local products Krische, Luke Simpson, Zach Mihic, Brad Smith, Scott McCarthy, Aaron Dick and Jeremy Filipek.