It takes an army to win a war and in the battle for bronze at the Ramada World Baseball Challenge and Canadian Sidearm Nation had strength in numbers on its side.
They walked off with a 10-6 decision over the Thurston County Senators of Olympia, Wash., whose lineup was down to the bare minimum by the time they left the field Saturday afternoon at Citizen Field.
“They showed a lot of grit, those guys are good young ball players and they battled with what they had and it was impressive,” said Sidearm Nation second baseman Dan Chappel, who had two hits Saturday.
“We lost to these guys in Grand Forks, so it was good to get ‘em back here and beat them three times, it was a little bit of revenge. One through nine in the order, we had good bats all week.”
The 34-year-old Chappel was one of top defensive second basemen in the tournament and also did his part with his bat, hitting .274 through seven games.
A four-run third inning gave Sidearm Nation a 7-0 lead. The bases were loaded for Billy Clapperton when his short fly dropped in front of centre fielder Tanner Angel, who mishandled the ball. That gave John McNeil and Chappel time to cross home plate, leaving Clapperton at second. Kevin Czarnecki followed up with an RBI single and Justin Johnston made contact for an infield sacrifice to bring in Czarnecki from third.
The Senators got on the board with two out in the fifth inning, scoring two runs on an error to shortstop Joey Underwood, who bounced his throw to first base trying to force out Tanner Angel.
Sidearm Nation added two more in their half of the fifth. Both runs were charged to starter Connor Bensen, who handed the ball to Bryan Lounsbury with one out and the bases loaded. The Senators finished off with two runs in the seventh.
Sidearm Nation opened the scoring in the second inning, taking advantage of a throwing error by shortstop Nick Bowman, who bounced the ball off the dirt trying to turn a double play. That allowed Duncan Elgert to score.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot, we had four errors that cost us at least five runs, not that it ended up the biggest difference in the game, we had to execute,” said Thurston County manager Abe Lupkin. “Hats of to Sidearm Nation, they came back and took it to us three games and it’s just fun to play them.”
The game took a painful turn in the third inning for Senators catcher Omar Madonado, and that had nothing to with the fact his team was trailing. Clapperton fouled one sharply off the dirt and the ricochet caught Madonado in the groin. He dropped to the ground writhing in pain and had to be helped into the dugout, forcing the already-depleted Senators to shift Tyler Wambold from left field to take Maldonado’s place. With no other healthy replacements, manager Lupkin came into the game to cover left field.
“That was the worst-case scenario, I was warning the boys all week not to get hurt,” said the 35-year-old Lupkin. “I came up here to coach, I didn’t expect to be in the lineup every day. I had taken a bit of batting practice just in case. I don’t even think my eyes were open when I swung the bat.”
Lupkin started the fourth inning by delivering the first hit of the game off Scott Beever. Thurston County went on to load the bases with one out. But Bowman got jammed and couldn’t the ball beyond the infield and Lupkin was forced out at home. Bryan Lounsbury then hit a weak grounder back at Beever which he fielded easily for the third out.
The Senators leaned heavily on the volunteer services of Physio North physiotherapist Vicki Laverdure, who kept their aching muscles and joints from seizing up. But there was no cure but time for Maldonado’s injury.
“He’s OK but he’s going to be walking around with a bag of ice down his pants for a few days,” said Lupkin. ”He’s not going to be having any fun.”
The nine-day tournament was taxing for all five teams but there were no complaints from either the Senators or Sidearm Nation. Their trip to Prince George for the WBC was a season highlight and the weather was perfect all nine days.
“It was a lot of baseball but the accommodations were five-star for sure, so we were going home to these great hotel rooms, we were getting wonderful meals all day long, and we just had to come to the park and worry about baseball, that’s a dream,” said Lupkin.
Czarnecki, the tournament’s all-star third baseman, who broke up a no-hitter for Japan in the eighth inning Friday while on the way to a 12-0 loss, said his team was satisfied to be going back to Alberta with a medal.
“It was tough we couldn’t sneak into the gold-medal but we left with something and that’s big,” said the 23-year-old Czarnecki.
“I haven’t played this many games (seven) in a row in a long time and it’s nice to get good competition. It was a pretty cool experience.”
Ramada World Baseball Challenge standings
Japan 6 0
Roswell Invaders 5 1
Canadian Sidearm Nation 3 3
Thurston County Senators 1 5
Kamloops Sun Devils0 6
Japan 5 Roswell 4
Canadian Sidearm Nation 10 Thurston County 6
Roswell 9 Thurston County 3
Japan 12 Canadian Sidearm Nation 0
Canadian Sidearm Nation 11 Thurston County 8
Japan 8 Kamloops 4
Roswell 12 Kamloops 2
Japan 12 Thurston County 9
Canadian Sidearm Nation 10 Kamloops 5
Roswell 11 Thurston County 1
Japan 11 Kamloops 1
Roswell 10 Canadian Sidearm Nation 2
Sunday, Aug. 14 results
Thurston County 13 Kamloops 9
Japan 11 Roswell 3
Saturday, Aug. 13 results
Canada Sidearm Nation 6 Thurston County 5
Roswell 8 Kamloops 7
Friday, Aug. 12 result
Japan 11 Canada Sidearm Nation 7