Braves Sweep Their Way To Tournament Win

The Sarnia Sr. Braves Win The Lakeside Tournament - July 9/17 (Photo Courtesy of James Grant)

The Sarnia Senior Braves are the 2017 Lakeside Invitational Tournament champions after a 5-0 win over the Leaside Leafs at Pulham Field in London, ON. The tournament featured 17 teams from across the province, 13 of which will take to the field in the Ontario AAA Eliminations this August.

Sarnia became the first team in the history of the 28-year tournament to win the title without allowing a single run against. In total, Braves pitching allowed only 19 hits over the course of five games. The pitching staff of Nick Baljeu, Wade Babula, Mike Damchuk, Anthony Shepherd, and Jake Near struck out a total of 35 opposition hitters while only allowing a runner to reach third base three times.

Sarnia began the weekend with a rain-delayed 2-0 victory over the Oakville Athletics. Nick Baljeu (6-0, 0.80 ERA) delivered the complete game win. Damchuk scored on a Vincent Caschera double in the fifth inning to account for the winning run. Craig Vannus would drive in Babula in the sixth for insurance. Baljeu struck out eight.

In game two, Babula (5-0, 1.64 ERA) took the ball against the Woodslee Orioles and navigated a five-hit complete game in a 3-0 victory. The Braves again scored the winning run in the fifth when Baljeu drove in Julian Service for the lead. They would add two more in the seventh inning as Caschera and Keegan Brandon came into score. Richard McIntosh and Justin Randall had the RBI.

Sarnia turned to Damchuk (5-0, 2.81 ERA) in the team’s last pool game and he did not disappoint. The righty struck out 12 Tomcats and allowed only three hits as the Braves knocked off St. Thomas 7-0. Randall and McKenzie Maxwell each scored and had multiple RBI in the game. With the shutout win, Sarnia secured the top-seed heading into the playoff round and received a bye to the semi-final.

With wins over the defending Canadian gold medalists from Tecumseh and silver medallists from Strathroy, the Ilderton Red Army advanced to take on Sarnia in the first semi-final. Lefthander Anthony Shepherd (7-0, 0.88 ERA) took to the hill for the Braves and tossed five innings of shutout ball. He allowed only two Ilderton hits while striking out six. Baljeu bounced back from his earlier start against Oakville to pick up the save with two-innings of clean work. Sarnia again took the lead in the fifth inning. Charlie Stubbs was hit by a pitch, bunted to second by McIntosh, and driven in by a Maxwell single to left field. The victory moved Sarnia to the Championship Game where the Leaside Leafs of the Greater Toronto League waited.

The Leafs had marched their way to the final with wins over tough teams from Pickering and East York while putting up 44 runs on opponents. Sarnia righty Jake Near (1-0, 1.00 ERA) put that scoring to a halt as the rookie scattered five hits over the complete game 5-0 victory. The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the third inning as Stubbs and McIntosh scored on a Service hit and Randall sac-fly. After a scoreless fourth, Baljeu would rip a triple into the right field corner that scored McIntosh and Service. He would later score himself on a wild pitch.

The Braves have now won 25 straight games to begin 2017. They host the Ilderton Red Army on Wednesday night at Errol Russell Park in a return to Southwestern League action.

-Submitted by Sarnia Braves