In a game to determine who survives in the Century 21 Prince George Senior Men’s Baseball League playoffs and who packs away their equipment for the rest of the year, the PG Surg Med Knights put their faith in pitcher Jacob Ross.
Just turned 16, Ross came in with nobody out in the fourth inning to douse the D.O.B. Contracting Gladiators’ smouldering bats and got the job done, allowing only three infield hits the rest of the way while striking out eight in a 9-8 victory at Citizen Field.
Both teams came in to Friday’s game having already lost two games in the triple-knockout playoffs. The Knights, who won two provincial midget double-A titles this month, will try to prolong their season again Monday night at 9 p.m. when they meet the Inland Control & Services Tigers in another loser-goes-home playoff.
“It’s been quite a few games in the last few weeks and we’re moving guys around a little bit but we’ve played a lot of ball lately and we’re not making too many mistakes and we’re starting to hit the ball more and more,” said Knights coach Buck Schmidt.
“When we switched over from metal bats to wood bats after provincials it was a bit of slow start but it’s coming around now.”
Knights starter Nolan Hull was on his game in the early going but his arm started to tire in the fourth inning and after issuing a couple of walks, bantam Knight Logan Dreher made him pay when he singled to centre field to tie the game 2-2. Graham Allard then hit a bases-loaded single that scored another run and Ryan Miles followed with a two-run hit for a 5-2 lead.
Ross came in to pitch with two on base and nobody out and drew back-to-back groundouts from Randy McMullen and Alec Gordon before he forced Gladiators pitcher Joseph JenVenne to strike out.
“Jacob has been throwing great for us all year and for a first-year kid he throws hard,” said Schmidt. “Hull was throwing a good game too at the beginning but they were hitting off the hands or we’d bring the infield in and they’d hit over our heads. Sometimes when it gets like that you have to make a change and Ross came in and we got some timely hits and played a bit of small-ball there.”
The pitch count was already approaching triple figures for JenVenne when he gave up a few walks that triggered a five-run fifth inning for the Knights. He walked in two runs and the Knights took the lead on an error when Miles dropped a short relay throw attempting to force out Luka Kim at first base, which brought Jake Anker in from third with the go-ahead run.
The Gladiators tied it 7-7 in the sixth on an error but in the Knights half of the inning they scored two more runs. Hunter Fanshaw laid down a perfect bunt along the third base line and the throw from catcher Calvin Todd sailed high, allowing Zach Fillion to score. Kolby Lukinchuk then rapped out a hit to left field which plated Fanshaw.
The Gladiators scored their eighth run in the seventh inning with two out on a passed ball.
“It was close game all the way and we wanted to give the (third-year midgets) another shot at it, keep them going,” said Ross. “We get to live another day and the third-years get to show us what they’ve got.”
JenVenne ended up making 139 pitches and several times was the victim of soggy infield which swallowed up the Knights hits on the ground before the ball could be fielded.
“They’re a good team and they played well and kept coming and they pitched really well,” said Gladiators shortstop Doug Clark, who went 0-for-4 and struck out three times.
“(Ross) came in and closed it. He got the (5-3) win against us on Wednesday and then he came back and shut the door on us tonight. Joseph pitched really well and it was a one-run game so it could’ve gone either way.”
In the early game the Queensway Auto World Mariners improved their playoff record to 2-1 after a 4-2 win over the Tigers. The Mariners will take on the defending-champion JRJ Construction Orioles (3-0) in a semifinal Monday night at 7 p.m.