The Niagara Metros won 6 straight games against some of the top teams in the province, to win the Vaughan Invitational AAA Tournament, this past weekend. And they did it in convincing fashion, reaching double figures in runs 4 times and outscoring their opposition 66-20 over the 6 games. Niagara won the tourney on the strength of a powerful 11-3 victory over the highly-ranked Strathroy Royals in the finals.
Niagara – 11 Leaside – 4
The tournament started out on a high note for the Metros as they knocked off the province’s 5th-ranked team, the Leaside Leafs 11-4. The Metros batted around and scored 6 in the 2nd inning, to take a 6-2 lead, before scoring 4 more times in the 7th, to put the game away. The Metros outhit Leaside 9-7, but also took advantage of 4 walks and 4 hit batters by Leaf pitchers, and 3 errors by the defense to win going away. Ricky Ferri (4 RBI’s), and Phil Steer (2 RBI’s) led the Metros at the plate with a pair of hits each. Evan Baglieri, Jonathan Paul, Jono Marcheterre, Jordan Grant, and Chris Anderi all added singles, while Grant, Anderi and Andrew Sorochan picked up RBI’s. The Metros’ Paul McKenna picked up the win on the mound as he tossed the complete game. McKenna allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits and 4 walks, while striking out 8.
Niagara – 20 North London – 0
No, that’s not a typo. In game 2, the Metros destroyed the North London Bats by a score of 20-0, and set a team record for the greatest margin of victory in a game. The one-sided affair, called after 5 innings by the tournament’s mercy rule, saw Niagara score at least 3 runs in every inning, as they collected 15 hits and 12 walks from the Bat’s pitchers. Jordan Grant led the way for Niagara in this one, as he collected a pair of singles and 5 RBI’s. Evan Baglieri (3 RBI’s), Jono Marcheterre (2 RBI’s) and Phil Steer (RBI) all doubled and singled, while Anthony Vacca chipped in with a pair of hits and 2 RBI’s. Chris Pickles added a pair of hits, while Taylor Anderson, Chris Anderi, and Ricky Ferri, who added 3 RBI’s, all singled. The offensive outburst may have overshadowed but did not diminish the great work of rookie AJ Clark on the mound for the Metros. Clark, in his first start after 5 relief appearnces, was brilliant in tossing a complete game shutout. The young righthander gave up just 2 hits and 4 walks, while striking out 7…for his first win as a Metro.
Niagara – 5 Strathroy – 3
At 2-0 in the round robin, the Metros had clinched a position in the quarter-finals. But coming up against the Strathroy Royals, the 2012 Provincial runners-up, provided an opportunity to see how they measure up against one of the best teams in Ontario. And, once again, the Metros put together a solid game…winning by a score of 5-3. This time they had to come from behind, as they found themselves down 3-1 after 4 innings. But Niagara scored 2 runs in the 5th to tie it up, and then won it in the 7th, scoring 2 more…the big hit coming from Dave Davidson, as he clouted a pinch-hit HR. The blast made a winner of starter Brandon Beattie, who was also making his first start of the season, after 4 relief outings. Beattie was very impressive in going the distance for his first win of the year, as he gave up just 2 earned runs and 7 hits against the powerful Royals lineup. He walked one, and struck out 4.
Niagara managed 8 hits against Strathroy starter Jason Schneider, who took the loss. Phil Steer led the way in this one, as he collected a double and 2 singles, scoring 3 times. Davidson, as mentioned had the game-winning RBI with his solo HR, with Ricky Ferri (RBI), Jonathan Paul, Jono Marcheterre, and Andrew Sorochan rounding out the offense with singles.
Niagara – 11 Vaughan – 6
The Metros’ 3rd game on Saturday was the quarter-finals, which saw the team matched up against the host team of the tourney, the Vaughan Vikings. And once again, it was Niagara’s powerful offense that stole the show, as they scored 3 in the first, and 6 in the 2nd to take a 9-0 lead. But the pesky Vikings wouldn’t go away, and rallied to narrow the margin to 9-6 by the 5th inning. However, the Metros scored 2 more in their half of the 5th, and left the rest up to closer Justin Ayles, who picked up the win. Dan Veres started on the hill for Niagara, but uncharacteristically had trouble finding the strike zone. Veres, who is known for his pinpoint control, allowed 6 walks (and 5 hits) in his 3 2/3 innings, which led to 5 Vaughan runs. Lukas Burch came in and quelled a 4th-inning uprising, only to run into control trouble himself, in the 5th. Burch gave up a run on a hit and 3 walks in his inning of work, before Ayles came in and closed it out. Ayles earned the win going 2 1/3 innings, and allowing 0 runs, 1 hit and 0 walks, while striking out 4.
Meanwhile, the Niagara offense was clicking on all cylinders, as they collected 11 hits (including 4 for extra bases). Evan Baglieri broke out in a big way to lead the Metros. He picked up a 3-run HR and a bases-loaded triple, to drive in 6 runs in his first two AB’s. Anthony Vacca added a pair of singles and 2 RBI’s, while Will Nicholson chipped in with a pair of singles. Phil Steer hit an RBI-triple, Chris Pickles doubled, and Ricky Ferri (RBI), Jonathan Paul (RBI) and Jordan Grant all added singles.
Niagara – 8 Erindale – 4
The quarter-final win over Vaughan put Niagara into the tournament semi-finals, where they ran into a familiar foe…the Erindale Cardinals from their own COBA Major Baseball League. And this game was a battle, which went into extra-innings, before it was decided. When the dust had settled, the Metros had scored four 8th-inning runs, to emerge with an 8-4 victory. Niagara held a 2-0 lead early, before Erindale rallied for 3 unearned runs in the 3rd, to take a 3-2 lead. But the Metros scored a pair of runs in the 4th, and then tried to make the 4-3 lead stand up. But the never-say-die Cardinals scored a run with 2-out in the 7th, to force extra-innings…where the Metros scored 4 times, to win 8-4.
Metros’ starter Geoff Strong deserved a better fate than his “no decision”, as he was brilliant in going 6 2/3 innings, and holding the Cards to just 3 hits and 3 unearned runs. He walked 4 and hit a batter, while striking out 9. Justin Ayles came in to record the save, but allowed the game-tying hit to Steve Gallant, before recording a 3 up-3 down 8th inning, to pick up the relief win. Dan Estey pitched 7 solid innings for Erindale to also pick up a “no decision”. Niagara recorded 14 hits in this one, with the big one coming off the bat of Jordan Grant, who clubbed a 2-run double to give the Metros the lead in the extra inning. The rookie infielder also added a triple and 3 RBI’s in total. Anthony Vacca added a double and two singles, along with an RBI, while Ricky Ferri chipped in with 3 singles and an RBI. Taylor Anderson also collected 3 hits, while Jono Marcheterre added 2 hits and an RBI. Dave Davidson singled, and Phil Steer had an RBI-Sac Fly to round out the offense.
Niagara – 11 Strathroy – 3
The nail-biter over the Cardinals put Niagara in the finals, for a rematch of their game 3 round-robin contest. And this one was not nearly as dramatic. Niagara got a pair of runs in the 1st and added 4 more in the 2nd, to take a 6-0 lead. Strathroy got a pair in the 3rd to narrow the gap to 4 runs, but the Metros scored 3 in the 5th, and 2 in the 7th to win going away. The final was 11-3. The Niagara club piled up 17 hits in the 7 innings, and were led this time by Phil Steer, who had 3 hits including a double, along with 3 RBI’s. Ricky Ferri also had 3 hits, and collected 2 RBI’s, while Evan Baglieri and Jordan Grant doubled and singled for a pair of RBI’s each. Jono Marcheterre (RBI) and Taylor Anderson singled twice each, while Anthony Vacca had an RBI-double, Dave Davidson an RBI-single, and Chris Pickles a single.
All the offense made a winner of starting pitcher Justin Ayles, who won his 3rd game in 3 appearances during the tourney. Ayles was solid, going 5 innings, and giving up a pair of runs on 9 hits. He walked one and struck out 2. Paul McKenna pitched the final two innings and gave up one run, on a hit and two walks, while striking out two.
The Metros now get a few days off to recover from the gruelling 6 games in 3 day event. The team returns to league action on Thursday, as they play host to the Mississauga Twins at 7:30. They will then host a doubleheader on Saturday, as the Brampton Royals come to town for the twinbill, beginning at 12:00 noon. All the games are, of course, at George Taylor Field.
(Submitted by Niagara Metros)