The Niagara Metros won three straight games to advance to the semi-finals of the 2014 “Hap” Walters Memorial Tournament, held in Milton over the weekend. However, due to Mother Nature’s intervention, that would be the end of the good news for both the Metros and the tournament. Literally one minute after Dave Davidson and Taylor Anderson hit back-to-back doubles to give Niagara a 1-0 lead in their semi-final game versus the Burlington Brants, the skies opened up. And 25 minutes later, the tournament was washed out. It was the first time since a similar event happened in 2008, that the tournament organizers were unable to declare a champion.
The tournament started out on a powerful note for the Metros, as they blasted the Oakville A’s 12-0, in a mercy-shortened 5 inning game on Friday evening. Niagara scored 1 in the 1st, before exploding for 7 in the 2nd to virtually put the game away. Niagara outhit Oakville 12-5 on the game. Leadoff hitter Phil Steer led the Metros with 3 hits, 2 runs and 2 RBI’s, while Evan Baglieri homered and singled for a pair of RBI’s as well. Taylor Anderson doubled and singled, while Anthony Vacca and Will Nicholson added RBI-doubles. Ricky Ferri (2 RBI’s), Jonathan Paul (2 RBI’s) and Dave Davidson (RBI) rounded out the offense with singles.
Dan Veres battled all game, and managed to hang on and finish the complete game shutout on the mound for Niagara. Veres struck out 4, and allowed 5 hits and 5 walks…but got some key outs, and a couple of big double plays behind him, to keep the A’s off the board. It was his 7th win of the season (against 0 losses). Alex Gowing was the starter and loser for Oakville.
The win over Oakville put the Metros into day 2 of the round robin part of the tourney, and dancing around the raindrops on Saturday afternoon, they downed a tough Ivy Leafs club by a score of 6-3. Niagara got a run in the 1st, and then 3 in the 3rd, to open up a 4-0 lead. They added one more in the 5th, but Ivy rallied to score 3 runs in the 6th inning, narrowing the gap to 2. However, the Metros scored another in the bottom of the 6th, and left the rest up to starting pitcher Geoff Strong, who went the distance for his 4th win (against 1 loss) on the year. Strong allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 7. Brad Grieveson went the first 6 innings for Ivy, and took the loss.
Phil Steer, Anthony Vacca and Ricky Ferri all collected 2 hits to lead the Metros in this one, with Vacca and Ferri adding RBI’s to their totals. Evan Baglieri (2 RBI’s), Dave Davidson (RBI), Jonathan Paul and Chris Anderi all picked up singles in Niagara’s 10 hit attack. Todd Gowan had a pair of singles for Ivy.
The 3rd game of the tourney for Niagara featured a tough matchup with the very strong Newmarket Hawks. And, once again, the Metros struck early…scoring 2 in the top of the first inning. It stayed that way until the 4th, when the Hawks uncharacteristically made back-to-back errors, and allowed Niagara to score a pair of unearned runs, making the score 4-0. Newmarket got their only run of the game on a HR by Dan Telford in the 5th. Otherwise, Niagara starter and winner Justin Ayles was in command of the game.
Ayles, who improved his W/L record to 7-1 with the win, kept the hard-hitting Hawks off balance and gave up just 5 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 6. Alex Bruce was the starter and loser for Newmarket. Niagara managed just 6 hits in this one, and once again it was Phil Steer and Ricky Ferri leading the way. Steer had a pair of singles, a walk, and 2 stolen bases (giving him 5 for the weekend), while Ferri collected a pair of singles and a run. The big hit, however, was off the bat of Jordan Grant, who delivered a 2-out, 2-run single in the first…putting the Metros ahead to stay. Taylor Anderson chipped in with a double, to round out the Niagara offense.
As mentioned, the 3 consecutive wins moved Niagara directly into the tournament semi-finals, where they battled the Burlington Brants until the rains came in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Of note, the Metros’ 3 wins in the tourney added to their already impressive winning streak…extending it to 10 games. It also made their impressive run 20 wins in their last 21 games. Niagara now gets a couple of days off before they return to league action on Thursday, as the Burlington Brants come to town. First pitch at George Taylor Field is set for 7:30.
(Submitted by Niagara Metros)