GUYSBOROUGH – Being back at the Senior Men’s National Fastpitch was a learning experience for many first-time participants at the national level. The Guysborough Transfer Broadhorns finished the preliminary round with a 1–5 record, but the record was not indicative of the teams’ ability to compete.
Coaches Paul Long, Geoff Jamieson and Newfoundland native Paul King led an inexperienced team against many teams with players either on the current national team roster or the 40-man roster competing for a position on the national team.
“Every team we faced had players who have competed at this high level of fastball, at the national team level or in the ISC competitions," said Coach Paul Long. "We were fortunate to have four guys who have played at this level before, but not on a regular basis. Our lack of high level competition prior to nationals was a determining factor in our overall record. But, while our record was 1–5, there were games where we were an out away from being in or winning a couple of the games."
The first game saw eventual Bronze medalist Elmira Expos of Ontario defeat the Broadhorns 8-3. "We were in this game until a five-run outburst in the top of the seventh inning, with two out," said Long. "It was a close game but at this level sometimes the hardest out to get is the last one.” Cory Avery started the game, with relief from Rene d’Entremont in the bottom of the fifth. Aaron Long led Guysborough with a two-run home run to tie the game in the sixth inning after Elliott Wright had batted in lead-off hitter Trent MacDonald.
“This was the game that got away from us, and showed the guys that you have to play to the last out. We had our chances to open with a win which would have been a great boost of confidence”.
In game two against powerhouse Sooke Loggers of B.C., the home run ball hurt Guysborough early. Led by three current national team members, Guysborough lost to the eventual Silver medalist 11–1. Bryan Gillis took the loss for Guysborough, with relief from Rene d’Entremont. Elliott Wright led the Broadhorns with two hits, Aaron Long and Noah Hawes had one hit each.
“This game was a real eye-opener for the guys who were making their first trip to a senior nationals. The hitting ability of players who are competing at a high level throughout the year was evident in this game, with a few really long balls leaving the ball park."
Game three on Thursday morning had Guysborough facing Saskatoon, another team with several national team roster players. Cory Avery was tagged with the loss, with Rene d’Entremont coming on in relief.
“Our pitchers did a great job all week against some tough line-ups. This game was closer but it is hard to come from behind at this level. Aaron Long continued to lead Guysborough offensively, hitting a double while Pat Berrigan, Connor Hilton and Ryan King each had a single. Thursday evening saw Guysborough pick up their first win with a 3–2 win over the Bulyea Rustlers of Saskatchewan. Aaron Long hit a three-run homer in the first inning to finally get the Broadhorns on the scoreboard early in a game.
“Scoring early set the table for the guys to be more confident and know that they could play at this level. We used all three of our pitchers in this game, with Bryan Gillis picking up the win. Trent MacDonald had two singles and Aaron Long added a single to go with his first inning home run as the guys hung on for the victory. It was nice to get in the win column and know that there was a chance to get to the playoff round.” Bryan Gillis, Joe LeBLanc and Matt Anthony each added a hit in the victory.
Friday morning saw Guysborough come up against a tough Alberta team, losing 9–0 in five innings. The Grande Prairie Pirates, led by home runs from national team roster players, held Guysborough to one hit by Andrew MacIsaac. Rene d’Entremont took the loss with relief from Bryan Gillis. “Our pitching staff was getting pretty tired at this point, but they kept going out there and doing their best against some powerful teams. Knowing you're coming up against some of the best hitters in the country is not easy, but there was no quit in any of our guys, something we were very proud of," said Long.
The final game of the preliminary round saw Guysborough facing PEI, with a birth in the playoff round at stake. Guysborough scored two runs in the second inning but the PEI team prevailed with a 6–2 victory. Cory Avery picked up the loss with relief from Rene d’Entremont. Elliott Wright, Bryan Gillis, Ryan King and Noah Hawes each had a single in the losing effort.
Guysborough had to wait until 11 p.m. to finally know that their playoff hopes were over as there were three teams that could have ended tied for eighth place, but had to settle for ninth overall based on their win over the Bulyea Rustlers, last year’s Bronze medalists. Overall, it was a great experience for the team, especially the players who were experiencing their first nationals.
“To be competitive at this level, players need to see quality ball all summer. Once they realized that there were teams that were certainly on another level, like B.C. and overall champions Newfoundland, but there were others where a break here or there would have put us in the playoffs, then the guys started to fully appreciate the experience and what it takes to play at this level."
The team would like to thank all those who made the trip up to St. Croix to watch the games and also view them online.
“Seeing people you know in the stands certainly helps the players to give their best efforts and to try to set an example for younger players coming along," said Long. "Hopefully others will see that playing at this level is something to strive for, and that our area does have quality ball players who can compete with the rest of the country.”
Next year’s Nationals are being held in Grande Prairie, Alberta…pack your bags!