Fraser Valley/Kelowna (Dan Kinvig) – The UFV Cascades baseball club’s valiant title defence came up just one game short, as they fell 12-5 to the Okanagan College Coyotes in the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC) championship game on Monday afternoon in Kelowna.
The host Coyotes, though, also rolled into the final with plenty of momentum and a matching 4-0 record, and they proved to be the Cascades’ kryptonite on this day.
“This tournament has been a long time coming, missing a year and a half due to COVID,” Cascades head coach Wes Darvill noted. “It was a ton of fun, and we definitely left it all out on the field. It was a last hurrah for all the seniors and the culture they’ve built, and for the younger guys to experience that in a championship setting, we’re very fortunate.
“We came up short today, but we’ll use it as fuel to get better in the off-season and work to take the championship back in the spring.”
Monday’s title game was a rematch of the previous two CCBC finals – the Coyotes defeated the Cascades for the 2018 conference crown, and the UFV squad bounced back to claim the title in 2019, the last time the championship was contested.
Okanagan College scored one run in each of the first and second innings on Monday, but in the bottom of the second, run-scoring hits by Ryan West and Ty Crowe drew UFV level at 2-2.
The two teams each plated a run in the fourth, but the Coyotes broke the game open with a four-run fifth, capitalizing on Cascade fielding errors.
In the bottom of the eighth, now trailing 8-3, the Cascades mounted a rally and pushed two runs across as West and Crowe earned bases-loaded walks. Coyotes reliever Jessie Poniewozik worked his way out of the jam, though, striking out Josh Berenbaum and Stephen Horner to end the inning.
Okanagan College effectively put the game away with four runs in the top of the ninth.
West and Crowe both finished with two RBI for the Cascades, Eric Einarson and Jack Ray scored two runs apiece, and Connor Coverett went 3-for-5 at the plate.
“It was one of those games where maybe you beat yourself a little bit,” Darvill said. “A couple plays didn’t go our way, but a lot of credit to Okanagan College. It was a long weekend for them as well, and they grinded it out. It wasn’t due to effort or competitiveness, it just didn’t go our way this time.
“It’s a really great rivalry (with the Coyotes). This league as a whole is really growing, and the level of talent of guys staying in Canada is really high. It’s fun going to battle with those guys. They’re well-coached and they’ve got great players. It’s going to be fun in the future, trying to get that title back.”
The CCBC regular season and championship tournament are normally held in the spring, but the season was cancelled in 2020 and postponed in 2021.
In the aftermath, Darvill tipped his cap to the Cascades’ graduating seniors. A trio of players – Dylan Emmons, Evan Petersen and Liam Campbell – have been with the UFV club since its inception in 2016, and graduating athletes like Ryan West and Dylan Sheardown are also set to move on.
“I’m just so proud of these guys,” Darvill said. “The competitive spirit they have and the culture they’ve built in this baseball program is extremely rare. It’s just a pleasure to be out there with them.
“They left it all on the field, and I’m so appreciative of what they’ve done for the program. They’re not just amazing baseball players, they’re special people who will have success in whatever walk of life they go into.
“We’re going to carry on that legacy.”