Sooke Loggers upend California A’s to claim Classic title

Written by Bob on July 1st, 2013

Lief.Haldane.Sooke.1web
Sooke’s Scott Lieph, left, and Rich Haldane, middle, combined to pitch the Sooke Loggers of Sooke, British Columbia, Canada to the 2013 California Classic championship, denying world-class pitcher, Lucas Mata, right, of the Bakersfield, California A’s the victory. Photo By BOB OTTO

SANTEE, CALIF – The pitching and the hitting have been solid, and at times spectacular. As a result? Tournament championships – four in fact.

The Sooke Loggers from British Columbia, Canada, clinched their latest title in the Fourth Annual California Classic on Sunday by beating the host Bakersfield, California A’s 9-6 in a contest that featured four home runs and a combined 22 hits.

A hitters’ game?

Certainly, but also one that featured some fine pitching. Especially that of Sooke’s Rich Haldane. The tall right-hander from Great Britain came on in the fifth inning in relief of starter Scott Lieph, and pitched masterfully to pick up the save.

HALDANE SUPERB IN RELIEF
In three innings of relief, Haldane scattered two hits, struck out three, and didn’t allow any runs to an A’s team loaded with great hitters, one through nine.

Sooke manager Len Banner’s decision to make the pitching change was masterful in its timing. California’s Matt Palazzo had just belted a home run, cutting the Loggers’ lead to 8-6 in the fifth. And the A’s seemed to be gauging the 23-year-old Lieph’s hard riser and drop. But Banner, knowing his two pitchers’ skills, didn’t hesitate in making the change.

“They are a good combination and pick each other up,” Banner said. “Scott is a hard thrower and Rich hits his spots, moves the ball around, and changes speeds a bit more than Scott does.”

TOUGH HITTING LINEUPS
But the game was ultimately decided on hitting. The A’s pounded out 10 hits with eight of its nine hitters reaching safely, led by Derek Mayson (2-for-4, two doubles).

Sooke’s lineup also had eight-of-nine reach safely, collecting 12 hits, with catcher Brian Banner leading the way, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs on a home run and single.

“It was a slugfest for a bit there until the last couple of innings,” said catcher Brian Banner. “There’s been some big home runs by a lot of teams here. California hit three and we had (one).”

2013-Sooke.Loggers.197web The Sooke Loggers team consists of Brian Banner, Chad Bryden, Kyle Cowick, Ben Edgington, Rich Haldane, Blake Hunter, Scott Lieph, Andrew Medwedrich, Nick Medwedrich, Adam Schnarr, Kris Walushka (not pictured), Dan Whiteford, field manager Len Banner, and coaches John Bishop and Joe Medwedrich. Photo By BOB OTTO

Sooke swung the bat well all weekend. In Saturday’s pool play, the Loggers outscored their three opponents, 24-4, and in Sunday’s single elimination play, beat Santa Rosa Fastpitch 11-2, and Team Marquez of Mexico 11-3 to reach the championship.

BANNER’S BOMB
And the Loggers sticks stayed hot in the finale. Banner, who led all hitters, belted a two-run bomb deep over the right-field fence in the top of the second inning, giving Sooke 2-0 advantage.

That seemed to set a tone. That in facing A’s hard-throwing Lucas Mata of Argentina, (2012 ISC World Tournament All-World pitcher), Sooke would attack pitches they could handle.

“We knew he would be around the zone,” Brian Banner said. “He’s really effective and we knew that we had to watch out for his low rise ball. I got a rise ball up a little above the belt and just tried to square it up, and when it’s hot like this the ball carries pretty well. I don’t think (Mata) had his best stuff, but he’s a great pitcher and we just tried to put the ball in play.”

LOGGERS GET TO A’S ACE
Sooke roughed up Mata for six earned runs on 10 hits, with the biggest outburst coming in the third, when the Loggers plated four runs to erase a 4-2 A’s lead. The A’s had surged ahead in the second, helped by a two-out error and Nathan Nukunuku’s two-run homer.

But Sooke wiped out the A’s lead on Blake Hunter’s (2-for-3, 2 RBIs) bases-loaded single up the middle that tied the game in the third. Then Banner followed with a run-scoring single to give Sooke a 5-4 lead that they wouldn’t surrender.

Coach Len Banner agreed with his son Brian that the Sooke lineup has one main objective: put the ball in play.

“We have that kind of lineup,” he said. “We like to move the ball around as much as possible and a lot of our guys can go first to third. We like to be aggressive on the bases.”

Banner.Len.Sooke.445web Sooke Manager Len Banner tosses the ball to pitcher Rich Haldane as he came in to relieve starter Scott Lieph. Photo By BOB OTTO

Sooke scored twice more in the fourth on Kyle Cowick’s run-scoring double and Andrew Medwedrich’s RBI single. The loggers plated their ninth run in the seventh when Hunter led off with a triple to the right-centerfield fence and scored on a Mata wild pitch.

The A’s threatened in the seventh when Mason belted a two-out double, but Haldane’s drop ball got Josh Johnson on a ground ball to end the game.

SMALLTOWN SOOKE BIG TIME FASTPITCH
Sooke came into the game ranked No. 8 in the world by the International Softball Congress, with the A’s at No. 5. The game also featured Sooke’s (pop. Under 10,000, located near Victoria, BC) “hometown boys” against the A’s star-studded lineup assembled from several countries.

“We’ve got one guy from out of town,” Brian Banner said. “We’re a group of guys from a small town who started playing baseball and softball together when we were 12 to 13 years old.”

A’S BOAST WORLDWIDE TALENT
The A’s ball club features Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, and U.S. talent from four different states. The A’s will be a ball club to be reckoned with come ISC World Tournament time in August. As evidenced by their march to the title game.

The A’s, who have won the three previous California Classics, marched through their bracket with a 10-0 win over SoCal Netiz; a 13-5 defeat of Team Marquez, and dispatched Si Senior, 6-1, heading into Sunday’s playoffs.

The A’s took care of Si Senor, 14-2, and J&B Painting, 9-1, Sunday morning, but that’s where their run for a fourth consecutive Classic title stopped. But losing to Sooke can’t be classified as an upset. Those four tournament titles stand as proof: One in May, the NAFA Open World Series June 14-16, and the Vancouver BC championship last week.

The key to Sooke’s success?

“We’ve been getting really good pitching this year,” Brian Banner said, “and great run support as well.”

SOOKE PITCHING: Lieph worked four innings, allowed eight hits and four earned runs with six strikeouts. Haldane finished with three innings, two hits, no runs, and three strikeouts.

A’s PITCHING: Mata went 6 2/3 innings and gave up six runs on 10 hits, while striking out five, and walking one. Josh Johnson relieved Mata in the fourth and got a strikeout, but gave up three runs on two hits and a walk before Mata reentered.

A’s HITTING: Kevin Shellenberg 1-4, Nathan Nukunuku 1-4, home run; Matt Palazzo 2-3, home run; Derek Mayson 2-4, two doubles; Chase Turner 1-3; Nate Devine 1-3, home run; Bobby Rosthenhausler 1-3, and Marcus Tan 1-3.

SOOKE HITTING: Nick Medwedrich 1-4; Kyle Cowick 1-4; Chad Bryden 2-3; Andrew Medwedrich 1-3; Blake Hunter 2-3, triple; Dan Whiteford 1-3; Brian Banner 3-3 home run, Adam Schnarr 1-3.

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