Winkler 15U (Bantam) AA Manitoba Champions

Updated Tuesday July 22, 2014 by Jake Peters.

Front Row (L-R):  James Dyck, Carter Rempel, Carter Wall, Bobby Matuszewski, Katie Heppner, Andrew Lane
Back Row (L-R):  Jeremy Matuszewski (Head Coach), Cameron Kirkby (Asst. Coach), Xander Wieler, Donovan Fehr, Braden Dyck, Owen Wiebe, Griffin Dyck, Caleb Unrau, Tristan Peters, Evan Dueck, Cam Wiebe (Asst. Coach)

The Winkler Diamond Dogs 15U “AA” Baseball team took home the Manitoba Provincial Banner this past weekend at the Manitoba Championships in Dauphin this past weekend.  Coach Jeremy Matuszewski said, “It was a complete team effort.  We had 14 players on the team this year and we knew that everyone could contribute, and that is what happened.  Everyone stepped up in Dauphin when they were called upon and filled an important role in us winning this championship.”

The team from Winkler breezed through the four-game Pool B round-robin the first two days with victories over St. James (12-1) and Macdonald (26-0) on Friday.  Winkler’s pitching, hitting and fielding were superb in both games, only giving up two hits combined on the opening day and the pitchers collectively pitching a no-hitter in the game versus Macdonald.  At the same time Winkler bats pounded out 14 hits in the first game and 20 in the last game of the day.

In their final two round-robin games on Saturday, Winkler completed their perfect 4-0 record with victories over Brandon (13-1) and St. Lazare (12-5).  Again, pitching was superb as were the bats, holding the opposition to six and seven hits respectively and dishing out 17 hits in both games.

With the team’s perfect 4-0 record Winkler finished 1st after round-robin play in the 15-team tournament to get the buy directly to the semi-final that was played Sunday afternoon.

After a relatively easy round-robin, however, the Winkler team ran into a tough Boissevain team in the semi-final game, going up 5-2 into the sixth inning.  However, Boissevain rallied with five runs in the top of the sixth to go ahead 7-5.  In the bottom of the sixth Winkler was able to get a couple of runners on base but were left stranded to setup the dramatic seventh inning.

After Boissevain went three up, three down in the top of the seventh, Carter Rempel led off the bottom of the seventh with a hard ground ball up the middle, giving Winkler hope for a rally.  The next batter struck out but Rempel stole second to get into scoring position for Griffin Dyck.  Dyck came through with a single to right field to drive in Rempel, with Winkler still down 7-6 and the tying run on base.  One out, and one base hit later by Carter Wall, moving the tying run to third, Andrew Lane came to bat as the final hope for Winkler to tie the game.  Lane fell behind 0-2 quickly and with the last pitch in the dirt swung and missed, but the ball got past the Boissevain catcher to the backstop, therefore allowing Lane to get safely to first base and at the same time allowing Dyck to score from third on the wild-pitch, to tie the game.

With runners now at second and third the table was set for the next batter, Donovan Fehr, to bring home the winning run.  Facing a 1-1 count against the Boissevain curveball pitcher, Fehr looped the game-winning single just over the second baseman’s outstretched glove, advancing the Winkler team to the final against Portage.

Portage had advanced to the finals by defeating North Winnipeg 15-5 in their semi-final game, to remain unbeaten in the tournament as well.  On the line in the final was not only the Provincial Championship but an opportunity to represent Manitoba at the Western Canadian Championships in Swift Current, SK from August 15-17.

Both teams had their best pitchers on the mound for the game in Caleb Unrau for Winkler and Connor Green for Portage, and a close game was expected.  However, this day Unrau would be sharper on the mound than Green and helped his team win the game 13-2.  As had been the case all weekend the bats led the charge for Winkler with timely hitting, led by the player of the game Braden Dyck, when he started the run-scoring charge for Winkler in the top of the first inning with a line shot over the fence in right field to score the first run.

As a team Winkler hit 0.458 for the weekend led by Tristan Peters, with a 0.706 batting average and nine RBI’s.  Collectively the team finished with 1.56 ERA, with Unrau getting two wins in the process and only giving up one earned run in six innings of work.  The Manitoba Champions also outscored their opponents 84-16 in the tournament.

For many of these players, this was their first Provincial Championship, while a few of them were with Matuszewski in Swift Current last season for the 13U “AA” Western Canadian Championships, where they finished third.  Matuszewski says that “Last year was my first Westerns as a coach and I found out the strategy for that tournament is different than what I was used to.  Hopefully, with this experience, and this great group of players, we can go represent Manitoba and bring home the Western banner as well.”

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