Midget Knights get hot in icebreaker

The Prince George Surg Med Knights get a kick out of playing under the bright lights at Citizen Field.

It makes them feel like they belong playing on the same field with a bunch of adults who were taking their cuts in the Prince George Senior Men's Baseball League long before most of the Knights were born.

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They respect their elders and all they do to help them tune up for midget tournaments in league games during the spring and summer. But given the chance to stomp those guys last weekend in the league's icebreaker tournament, the Knights took no prisoners.

They did nothing but win. It started on Friday night when they turned a 2-1 deficit into 3-2 triumph over the Queensway Auto World Red Sox, which ended when Kolby Lukinchuk crushed a two-out, two-run double.

That win put the Knights into the semifinal round Saturday afternoon against the JRJ Construction Orioles and the midgets rode the arm of 15-year-old pitcher Jacob Ross to a 7-2 complete-game victory to advance to the final that evening against the Red Sox. They built a 4-0 lead in the first inning and rode the pitching of Nolan Hull the rest of the way to win the five-inning game 4-1.

Hull pitched himself out of jam when the Red Sox threatened in the first inning after back-to-back singles from Brandon Hunter and Chris Clark and when it was their turn to bat the Knights showed the damage they're capable of causing.

Hull doubled off Red Sox starter Tyler Clement in the bottom of the first and scored Zach Fillion with the first run, then Ross brought Hull home with a sacrifice fly. Jacob Fillion followed with an RBI single to plate Derian Potskin and Jake Anker's base hit scored Fillion with the fourth run.

"We all played good, we were short guys because of grad (ceremonies) but we all played really well and I'm excited for the rest of the year," said the 16-year-old Hull. "Ross threw a really good game in the semifinal and we couldn't have done it without our pitching and we have lots of arms this year, it's going to be good. It was good to start the year in the men's league and see what we've got now."

Curtis Sawchuk took over from Clement in the second inning and pitched four scoreless innings the rest of the game, but his team was unable to erase the deficit.

"Every game that's our goal to get that lead, it just pushes the other team so much harder and they make their own mistakes," said Knights head coach Murray Lukinchuk.

"That's great competition and that's what we're looking for from these guys. It was a great job by Nolan, he's developed so much this year through the winter programs and his attitude is wonderful."

Lukinchuk said even with his son Kolby and Hunter Fanshaw attending the Duchess Park prom and Richard French injured he still had several pitching options in case Hull faltered, with Potskin, Brady Pratt and Kaelon Gibbs available.

"We're deep in the pitching and it's really good, we have six legitimate starters here," said coach Lukinchuk.

Ross is making the jump to midget baseball after a couple successful seasons with the bantam squad and can't wait for the midget Knights' first test against their age-group peers at the Sherwood Park tournament, May 30-June 1. Three wins against men's teams provides a timely confidence boost.

"It's a great way to start the year, the boys did a good job and we were good on the bats and decent in the field," said Ross. "We've got some work to do in practice but it seems to be a really good team this year."

In the third inning, Hunter scored Justin Fillion from second base with a two-out double but that's as close as the Red Sox got. Pratt, the Knights' centre fielder, caught a piece of Hunter's long bomb and that prevented two more runs from scoring.

"They played well all weekend," said Sawchuk, referring to the midgets. "They've been putting in the work in practice and it showed this weekend."

The Red Sox' loss to the Knights Friday meant they had to play an extra game to qualify for the final and they ran short of pitching. Justin Fillion pitched two complete five-inning games, back-to-back.

Sawchuk, a 27-year-old lefthander, admitted his pitching arm was not quite up to mid-season standards.

"Age is catching up to me a little bit," he said.

Sawchuk is head coach of the LTN Contracting bantam Knights and had four of his bantams (Brendan Gaboury, James Yandeau, Preston Weightman and Logan Dreher) playing on the men's teams in the icebreaker to help them tune up for a tournament in Kamloops this weekend.

"That's ultimately what we want with the (Prince George Youth Baseball) Association," said Sawchuk. "We want them to play at the next level and compete and to play against the men is the best practice they can have. It's the best competition they'll see, compared to their age group. It's only going to better them in the long run."

The five-team Century 21 Prince George Senior Men's League begins its schedule on Wednesday, May 22.

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