The Muskoka Hornets U18 team battled the elements, adversity and strong opposition and came away winners of the Mississauga North Spring Baseball Tournament ending on May 6. The Hornets won three times against three of the top teams in the province on Sunday, Ajax, Mississauga and Brampton, to secure the championship.
Friday's game one of the three game round robin portion of the tournament pitted the northern Hornets against the host Mississauga North team. Most Hornets players arrived late having to dodge falling trees and 115 km winds on the trip south. As such, the visitors struggled to gain traction in an 8-1 loss.
On Saturday morning, Muskoka starting pitcher Luke Earle pitched five shutout innings against Oshawa before reaching his pitch limit leaving with the Hornets nursing a 1-0 lead. In the 6th, the Hornets defense went AWOL as the team committed four errors in the inning, allowing the Oshawa team to score 6 runs going away for the 6-1 victory.
On Saturday afternoon, with the Hornets back at full strength following the arrival from prom of Huntsville High soon to be grads Logan McKnight and Ethan Murdy, the team needed a victory over Hamilton coupled with a loss by Oshawa to advance to Sunday's playoffs. Sure enough, the Hornets managed to sneak out a 4-3 victory on the back of strong pitching from Andrew Haynes and McKnight. With Oshawa's loss, the Hornets booked a ticket to Sunday baseball.
At this point, the Hornets were running out of pitching arms, particularly pitchers used to starting games. As such, Sunday became an inning by inning bullpen game with the opening quarter final against Ajax a hard fought 2-1 victory. The win set up a re-match with the host MNBA team and the Hornets came out strong, jumping to an 9-3 lead before holding on for a 9-6 victory.
In the final against Brampton, the Hornets used 7 pitchers over 7 innings including 4 pitchers on the bump for the first time. The team once again swung the bats well and played stellar defence to hold on for a 10-8 win.
There are too many highlights to mention in a weekend of great baseball. Special thanks to head coach Ryan Davis for his hard work preparing the team over the winter. Davis is head of player development for the Muskoka Hornets program and runs a baseball program long affiliated with the Hornets called Edge Baseball Instruction.
This tournament victory represents a milestone for the U18 team now in its 10th year together. The MNBA win represents the first tournament win at any level outside our local event, and in beating three of the best teams in Ontario on Sunday, the local Hornets served notice that they will be a force to reckon with in 2018.